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A micro-sleep (MS) is a temporary episode of sleep or drowsiness which may last for a fraction of a second or up to 30 seconds where an individual fails to respond to some arbitrary sensory input and becomes unconscious. MSs occur when an individual loses awareness and subsequently gains awareness after a brief lapse in consciousness, or when there are sudden shifts between states of wakefulness and sleep. In behavioral terms, MSs manifest as droopy eyes, slow eyelid-closure, and head nodding. In electrical terms, microsleeps are often classified as a shift in electroencephalography (EEG) during which 4–7 Hz (theta wave) activity replaces the waking 8–13 Hz (alpha wave) background rhythm. MSs often occur as a result of sleep deprivation, though normal non-sleep deprived individuals can also experience MSs during monotonous tasks. Some experts define microsleep according to behavioral criteria (head nods, drooping eyelids, etc.), while others rely on EEG markers. Since there are many ways to detect MSs in a variety of contexts there is little agreement on how best to identify and classify microsleep episodes. Microsleep is extremely dangerous when they occur in situations that demand constant alertness, such as driving a motor vehicle or working with heavy machinery. People who experience microsleeps often remain unaware of them, instead believing themselves to have been awake the whole time, or to have temporarily lost focus.
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