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Sleeping Six Hours a Night As Bad as Not Sleeping At All

Photograph by Getty Images/Tetra images RF

Parents know what sleep deprivation is all about. I mean, we practically invented sleep deprivation. So it's no surprise that when a mom or dad gets six straight hours of sleep, it's cause for a major celebration. Until now.

According to a new study published in the journal Sleep, apparently getting six hours of sleep a night is the same as not sleeping at all. The 48 participants of the lab-based study were allowed to sleep eight, six, four or zero hours of sleep over a two-week period. And the most surprising find? The subjects who were only allowed six hours of sleep a night for two weeks straight—which, frankly, doesn't sound bad at all to this mom—were about as productive as those who weren't allowed to sleep at all for two consecutive nights.

The lucky subjects who were allowed to sleep eight hours a night were far higher functioning than the others, while the ones who only got four hours a night saw their performance dropping each day. The real scary part—and probably one all parents can relate to—is that the six-hours-a-nighters didn't really feel like they were getting cognitively slower or even feeling excessive sleepiness as their sleep debt added up. According to researchers, "subjects were largely unaware of these increasing cognitive deficits," and believed they could go on functioning as normal.

Just think of all the things you wouldn't trust someone who hadn't slept in two days to do: driving, taking tests, making tons of food for little people and remembering to turn the stove off are just a few of the things that come to mind.

The study concludes that it appears that "even relatively moderate sleep restriction can seriously impair waking neurobehavioral functions in healthy adults."

But you know what, we'll still celebrate, because sometimes a parent getting six hours of sleep a night is as rare as a unicorn sighting and we'll take what we can get.

MORE: 11 Signs You're Not Getting Enough Sleep

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