Essay: Why it hurts to loose sleep – analysis

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  • Subject area(s): Science essays
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  • Published on: February 10, 2020
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  • Why it hurts to loose sleep - analysis
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The popular press article I selected is from the New York Times, entitled “Why It Hurts to Lose Sleep”. This article comes from the scientific journal entitled “The pain of sleep loss: A brain characterization in humans”, written by Adam J. Krause, Aric A. Prather, Tor D. Wager, Martin A. Lindquist and Matthew P. Walker. The scientific study is one that observes the manner in which lack of quality sleep and pain tolerance relate to one another. Through case studies, the conclusion is drawn that a lack of deep, dreamless slumber causes people to be less tolerant to pain, and have more of it in their day to day lives. While people have previously believed that the occurrence of pain and a sleepless night co-occur with each other, this scientific journal takes it a step further and concludes that these two factors are related. In fact, studies in the scientific journal show that there is a direct correlation between sleep deprivation and the enhancement of the reaction to pain in the somatosensory cortex associated with receiving pain signals. The scientific journal and news article both express that these findings can help scientists to manage pain, specifically in the setting of a hospital in which pain is common and restfulness is not.
The conclusions that the scientific journal do not seem in any way far fetched, and are logically met. They are backed with strong evidence including numerous quotes from the main researcher in the scientific journal, and examples from the case studies that have strong sample sizes and variety (study made by researchers from Berkeley so to be expected :)). The samples of people tested upon vary in background, and there are tests of multiple extremes, with some drastically altering sleep (all nighters) and some just slightly changing the amount of sleep one has in a night. There are also changes in setting made, from both a controlled laboratory setting to a more day to day natural setting, showing that there was consideration for environmental factors. The relationship between sleep and pain is found to be bidirectional from the numerous tests in different settings and given in different extremes. While there are assumptions made in the scientific journal, the explanations and reasoning behind the test cases erase doubt from the mind of the reader, as all concerns are addressed.
The flaws found in the news story came from the language utilized. While it can be understood more universally because it uses less scientific terms, the ways in which conclusions from case studies and brain scans are less clear as there is a lack of specificity and lots of assumption. When looking for a casual read, many don’t look for flaws and nitpicky details, and blindly believe the article put forth. In the case of this article, the studies are still almost entirely the same as the ones in the scientific journal, just less detailed and focused. The individuals studied are described in less depth, so the results become less reliable. For one sample, 25 subjects are utilized, and all are tested on pain tolerance before and after an all nighter. However, there is no description of how much sleep these individuals are getting between trials(which are a week apart), nor are there any specific examples of the results of people’s before and after pain tolerances, just the statistic that people’s pain went up “by 15 to 30 percent on the pain scale,”(Benedict Carey). The pain tolerance scale is also not explained, letting one make assumptions about what a one is on the scale and what would be an example of a ten. The statistics used in the news article are consistent to those in the scientific journal, but the subtle differences in wording, detail, and omission of explanation make the results less sound and seem to be based off of some level of assumption. Even so, the testing methods are sufficiently described and the processes are understood.

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