Common and Critical Misconceptions and Individual Differences

People often think the effects of sleep deprivation can be overcome through motivation, professionalism, training, or experience. However, recent research provides evidence against this idea.13 For example, a study of medical residents who worked long hours and experienced sleep deprivation did not show evidence that they adapted to sleep deprivation better as their training years progressed.14

People also tend to think they can recognize their own poor performance when they have not gotten enough sleep. It is critical to understand that sleep-deprived persons may not recognize the extent of their declines in performance and may not be a good judge of their level of impairment.13,14 This poorer ability to judge oneself can lead to dangerous and fatal situations if the sleep-deprived person drives or tries to perform other critical tasks.

The extent of decline in performance varies,8 although individual levels of decline have been shown to be consistent over time. Some people show more decline than others, which may reflect an inherited trait or sensitivity to sleep loss.13-17