The thrill of the hunt is different for everyone who engages in this outdoor sport. Some enjoy the feeling of being up and in the woods before dawn has even begun to think about opening her eyes. Others live for the opportunity to sit quietly and commune with nature while waiting for that trophy buck to make its fleeting appearance. Whatever reason you may have for waking up in the middle of the night and taking to the woods with a bow or rifle in hand, you're not alone. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 13.7 million adults hunted in 2011. If you're one of them, there's one thing to keep in mind: The amount of sleep you get before the hunt is important. Here's why:
Too Little Sleep Slows Your Reaction Times
Slowed reaction times are bothersome in a work environment. You could lose a client or a promotion. You might offend a coworker or miss an important detail in a presentation, but out in the woods, a slow reaction time can cost you much, much more.
A recent study published in the journal Sleep used military cadets to test slowed reaction times under the effects of sleep deprivation. It was determined that those who didn't get enough sleep before participating in drills requiring split-second decisions were more likely to make costly mistakes.
While it's one thing to maneuver through your boring work day in a sleep-deprived haze, it's something else entirely to head out to the woods with a weapon in your hand and a buddy by your side under the same conditions. Part of being safe in the woods involves sleeping well during the nights leading up to the big hunt.
Being Tired Causes Accidents
Nobody ever expects to fall out of their tree stand, but according to The National Institutes of Health, between 2003 and 2011, that happened to at least fifty-four hunters. That might not sound like a lot, but the hunters identified were only those who ended up in trauma units due to the severity of their injuries. Those identified were treated for head injuries, spinal fractures, rib and chest damage, broken pelvises and organ damage. The average hospital stay was between 5 and 7 days.
It's a costly lesson to learn: Don't climb to high places when you're sleep-deprived.
Sleepiness Goes Hand-in-Hand With Impaired Judgment
When is it a good time to not be suffering from impaired judgment? When you have a potentially lethal and loaded weapon in your hand. Is that the deer of your dreams standing off in the underbrush? Or is it your hunting partner, wife, son or daughter? On a good day, you'd have no trouble not taking that shot, but sleep deprivation can do funny things to your judgment, including preventing you from realizing that you're impaired. After one or two nights of getting too-little sleep, you'll notice your performance dropping, but as time goes on with chronic sleep loss, you begin to feel that all is well again. It isn't. Don't make this mistake that could haunt you forever.
Getting enough sleep is vital for nearly every facet of your life, from your job and school performance, to your physical and emotional health, to the way you drive and operate machinery. But it may never be more important than it is when you're holding a loaded gun. Be smart. Be safe. Get enough sleep.