Being in a coma isn’t like being asleepHearttoHeart/Shutterstock
In soap operas, people always wake refreshed from comas, like they’ve just had a great night’s sleep—but according to research, this isn’t the case. Comas are a prolonged state of unconsciousness, but nothing like sleep. “Brain wave EEG readings for someone in a coma are very different from those of someone sleeping,” says sleep expert Richard Shane, PhD, creator of the Sleep Easily method. “During a coma, a person does not move, as people in a non-dreaming state do. A person in a coma is unresponsive to his or her environment and cannot be awakened by any stimulation, including pain.” Because of the lack of brain activity in comas, those who awaken may have damage or need to rehabilitation to get their noggin working again. Find out more about what it’s really like to be in a coma.
Amnesia doesn’t cause you to forget who you areHBRH/Shutterstock
OK, so what about that other favorite movie trope of a character suddenly having amnesia and not knowing who they are? According to the Mayo Clinic, amnesia doesn’t usually lead to a loss of self-identity. Instead, there are two kinds: retrograde (the inability to recall past events) and anterograde (the inability to learn new information). A study from the UK found that amnesiacs also may have problems imagining scenarios for the future, because these are often based on past experiences. Another misconception: Severe amnesia is not usually the result of a head injury—and it’s certainly not cured by another one, like in the movies. Learn how to use your brain’s “delete” button to forget new memories.
Sleep deprivation to the brain is the equivalent of being drunkDean Drobot/Shutterstock
The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults to get seven to nine hours of sleep, but many Americans are going without that much. The problem is, being sleep deprived can lead to mental function that’s equal to being intoxicated. “In repeated studies, after 17 to 19 hours without sleep, cognitive functioning and response speed were equivalent or worse than someone with a blood alcohol content [BAC] of five percent,” Dr. Shane says. “After 24 hours without sleep, performance indicators were equivalent to a BAC of 10 percent.” All states have a legal limit of eight percent, with commercial drivers held to four percent. The National Institute of Medicine estimates drowsy driving is responsible for 20 percent of car crashes. And you don’t need to be up for 24 hours straight for this effect—other research has shown that the cumulative effect of consistently getting six hours or fewer can lead to similar results. Check out these other 13 scary things that happen when you don’t have enough sleep.