Planning for the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI) is one thing, but experiencing a world-changing event and continuing to thrive and survive is something else completely. Once the initial shock and implementation of your plan is over and done with, the real survival skills come into play. While most people plan for food, water, and other supplies pretty well, few prepare for the emotional and physical drain of always being on guard and attentive when trying to survive.
Sleep deprivation is a major concern for anyone dealing with a stressful situation and if you don’t manage it effectively, it will definitely manage you.
What is Sleep Deprivation, Really?
This seems like an easy question, but sleep deprivation is more than just not getting enough sleep. Everyone’s had a day or two where you got a few hours of sleep and felt like a zombie, but real sleep deprivation is the effect of multiple days in a row with little to no quality sleep.
Drifting off for 20 minutes leaning against a tree isn't sleep. True sleep deprivation is actually a form of “interrogation” used throughout the world. Loud, startling sounds are played as soon as the prisoner starts to fall asleep, which causes the effects of sleep deprivation. In the real world during a survival situation, this can happen naturally as your mind is “always on” while it waits for the next threat to appear. This state means you’ll never really get sleep.
The best way to truly explain sleep deprivation is by looking at its effects.
The Real Effects
Sleep deprivation should not be ignored by anyone, especially a prepper looking to survive a bad situation. The scary part is that once you realize you have it, you’re too late to stop its ill effects as you've been deprived for some time at this point.
Think of the story of the frog in boiling water. If you drop a frog into a pot of boiling water it’ll try to jump out immediately, but if you slowly raise the pot to boiling it won’t notice until it’s far too late. The same goes for your brain and sleep deprivation.
In the short-term sleep deprivation can cause general fatigue, significantly diminished cognitive (problem-solving) skills, issues with attention, clumsiness, and sensory impairment. A sleepy brain is very similar to a brain under the effects of alcohol. Just like a drunk getting behind the wheel of a car things he or she is perfectly fine to drive, you may think you’re not tired until it comes time to use a gun or drive and your brain can’t react in time to perform a life-saving task like aiming or steering.
Over the long-term, sleep deprivation can cause diabetes, stunt growth, impact how well you heal, and even shorten or alter your memory. Sleep deprivation is real and it’s not just someone being a “wuss” about not getting enough sleep.
How to Cope With Sleep Deprivation
One way to keep from being sleep deprived is to have a few people to survive with. While some preppers believe in the go-it-alone method of survival, having a few people to rely on can keep you safe and allow you to get real rest where you’re not worrying about being attacked in your sleep.
Whether you’re with people or not, there are a few methods you can use to get the sleep you need.
Caffeine – Use this drug very carefully. Remember that caffeine is indeed a drug and its effects can be both positive and negative. While it can help you be alert, it can also keep your brain going when you need it to stop. Caffeine is a very useful tool for survival; just use it wisely.
Schedule Naps – Unlike your normal day you have now where you are up during certain times and able to sleep during others, these are likely to be mixed up when you’re surviving. Plan a few naps throughout the day that last 20-30 minutes. This will allow your brain and body to get a small dose of recovery and splitting these up can help you in case one is missed. Consider naps just like any other survival necessity, like water or food. You schedule eating times, so schedule sleep times, too.
Realize your Natural Rhythm – Everyone is different when it comes to sleeping. Starting today, pay attention to how your body sleeps. Keep track of when you go to sleep and when you wake up without an alarm, especially if you wake up during the night. This can help you see what you’re natural sleep cycle is. Use this information to your advantage and plan sleep around your body’s internal clock. You’ll feel better with less sleep if you use your natural schedule.
Light and Dark – Your body relies on visual cues to know when to sleep, so if you’re taking a nap during the day, try your best to black out where you are. If this means wearing a sleeping mask, do it. Our bodies don’t like sleeping when there’s light out.
Take Your Vitamins – Sleep deprivation can actually rob your body of vitamins and make you dehydrated. Take some extra vitamin C and some extra water when you’re short on sleep to keep things working as best as they can.
In a survival situation the reality is that you’re bound to get less sleep and the sleep you do get will be poor quality at best. The idea is that you must be aware of what sleep deprivation looks like and how to handle it when you are in its grip.
Like we said above, being deprived of sleep is very similar to being drunk. If you notice yourself becoming less coordinated or slurring/forgetting words, you need to accept that it’s time to get some shut-eye. With other people around, you can all be on the lookout for the signals and help each other stay as safe and alert as possible.
Sleep deprivation is bound to happen at some point when you’re surviving the end of the world as we know it, but with some help you can abate most of the dangerous aspects and keep yourself safe.