Or space out while driving to work and almost hit a stalled vehicle?
Researchers also noticed sleep-like waves disrupting parts of the brain, nearly as if certain areas were dozing off and causing mental lapses of concentration, while other sections of the brain carried on running as normal. "This leads to cognitive lapses in how we perceive and react to the world around us".
The study arose from a unique research being conducted on patient evaluation for surgery to treat severe epilepsy. The participants all had electrode implants in their brains, with the goal of registering where their seizures originate in the lead-up to surgery.
Researchers tested 12 exhausted epileptic patients who had electrodes implanted into their brains to pinpoint the origin of their seizures.
Each participant was asked to categorize images as quickly as possible.
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The scans suggested a lack of sleep was interfering with the neurons' ability to translate what was being seen into coherent thoughts, in the same way that a exhausted driver takes a moment to react to a pedestrian stepping out into the road.
Think of a sleep-deprived driver noticing a pedestrian stepping in front of their vehicle. "It takes longer for his brain to register what he's perceiving", says Dr. Nir.
In a second finding, the researchers discovered slower brain waves in the same regions of people's brains to the failing brain cells.
Dr Yuval Nir from Tel Aviv University said: "We were fascinated to observe how sleep deprivation dampened brain cell activity". Fried. "This phenomenon suggests that select regions of the patients' brains were dozing, causing mental lapses, while the rest of the brain was awake and running as usual".
According to a new study, a lack of sleep can actually produce similar effects on the brain as alcohol consumption.
"Slow sleep-like waves disrupted the patients' brain activity and performance of tasks", said Fried. But, as Fried said in a university release, "no legal or medical standards exist for identifying overtired drivers on the road the same way we target drunk drivers".
In future research, Fried and his colleagues plan to more deeply explore the benefits of sleep, and to unravel the mechanism responsible for the cellular glitches that precede mental lapses.
The study claims that sleep deprivation is something that you can't catch up on, so for example, if you only get 4 hours one night, 12 hours the next night won't make up for the previous lack of 4 hours sleep.