What is microsleep?
Microsleep is a brief episode of sleep that takes place when the person is awake, without the person intending to do it. It generally lasts for a few seconds. It is completely out of control and there are times when the person doesn’t even realize that it happened.
Why does it happen?
It occurs due to severe sleep deprivation. Because a person hasn’t slept well, either the day before or for a few days now, the brain is too fatigued to function.
The theory behind it is not exactly clear but it seems that some parts of the brain auto shut off while some manage to stay awake.
According to Michael Breus, a board-certified clinical sleep specialist, this phenomenon happens due to excess build-up of adenosine in the brain(which otherwise gets taken care of during a normal sleep cycle).
Signs of microsleep: These are the most common signs of suffering from microsleep,
Blank stare, head bobbing, prolonged shut-eye, slow blinking, dropping things from your hand, etc.
Risks associated with microsleep :
These tiny episodes might seem harmless when they happen while a person is stationary and doing some leisure activity like reading or watching a movie. But on the contrary, these are super dangerous while a person is driving, or operating a piece of large machinery, or maybe crossing a road. These can lead to minor injuries to fatal consequences for the person suffering and others.
Ways to prevent microsleep :
These incidents normally happen when our body is programmed to sleep, but it doesn’t.
So it’s best to follow a regular bedtime. In cases where it is unavoidable, here are a few quick tips to follow.
If you see any of the above signs of potential microsleep, take a power nap.
While driving late nights, try and keep company, or have some music on to keep your brain alert. Pull over at a rest stop for a while if required.
Take brisk walks periodically.
Have caffeine to keep you going. (try not to make this a habit).
In case of meetings or conferences, keep fidgeting with your pen or pencil and keep some movement to keep you alert.
When to consult a professional: If you have tried all of the natural ways to get your sleep cycle in place and yet there is no outcome, it’s time you seek some professional advice as you could be suffering from some underlying sleep disorders.