The Effects of Sleep Loss

The Effects of Sleep Loss 

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Many people have or have had trouble falling asleep when it’s time. This is often due to factors such as stress or simply not “feeling” tired. Ever wonder how your quality of sleep affects your performance the next day? Personally, starting a day off without having gotten a good night’s rest has a direct negative relationship with my mood/energy level for majority of the morning.  Others will only experience some fatigue upon initially waking up, an impact of lesser severity when compared.

In this article, Whiteman writes about how staying up all night affects a person’s “working memory”. As defined by the article, working memory is described as our ability to briefly hold information, while simultaneously making a decision. A common example of working memory from the article for anyone with a cell phone is adding a contact to your phone. As you are actively remembering the number, you are also typing the number and/or name into your phone. After being able to recall several times where I as well as others did not get a good night’s rest and felt we suffered for it the next day.

Yet, a study done by Frida Rångtell, a student at the University of Uppsala in Sweden made an interesting discovered that for men there simply is no impact. “Women who lost a night’s sleep, however, showed a reduction in working memory in the tests, though they did not appear to notice this reduction” (Whiteman, Medical News Today). There are two aspects to this distinction between reactions, one of them being the reduction in working memory itself as well as the impact going unnoticed by the female participants in the study. Of the participants included in the study, 6 out of the 12 participants were said to be female (Whiteman, Medical News Today).  Understandably so, this result did come as a concern to Rångtell, as “ “working memory is central in cognitive functioning and key to perform[ing] efficiently and effectively in academic, professional, and social settings,” they [Rångtell and colleagues] write in their paper. Thus, we often multitask (a byproduct of working memory) in our daily lives and this function is essential to being able to complete  multiple tasks during our day. Rångtell cautions women to be extra careful when running off low sleep and performing their daily activities.

A limitation cited in the article notes that the researchers are not sure whether or not the effect of working memory lasts soley during the morning hours or throughout the entire duration of the day, since they only tested the 6 women during the morning hours. In addition to this limitation, she also writes that sleep deprivation may affect others areas that vary by sex, but since the focus of this study was sleep deprivation on cognitive functioning they are again  unsure.

In my experience, not getting enough sleep definitely affects my energy, willingness/desire to complete both simple and complex tasks, as well as performance. Prior to the knowledge gained from this article I had no idea of the correlation between my experience and my gender. Though, without the knowledge of the strength of the correlation I will remain unsure if this is a prime example of why I can recall most girls in my elementary class being very calm and quiet in the morning as compared to the boys high energy levels and inability to contain themselves. Regardless, the articles results were both interesting and informative.

8 thoughts on “The Effects of Sleep Loss

  1. camaral

    I feel like they would definitely need to replicate this study with more than just 12 people in order to properly conclude anything as such a small sample makes it hard to really see a distinct impact. It’s also interesting to me that the women didn’t notice the impact that no sleep had on them, I feel like any time I don’t get the right amount of sleep I am incredibly sluggish and cranky the next day. There could also be an age factor that could play into how much one would feel the impact of less sleep, or how conditioned they were to getting less sleep. Someone who is younger or more used to going without sleep may be better at coping than someone who is older or doesn’t usually lose sleep.

  2. mshifflett4

    This study really interested me because I am the type of person who finds myself not being able to sleep at night or staying up to late watching Netflix or scrolling through social media on my phone. I feel like after reading this post it does catch my attention a little bit and really emphasizes to me that I need to go to bed at a better hour. Knowing that the lack of sleep I get could negatively affect my working memory is alarming. It really makes me want to change my sleeping pattern.

    Seeing that women were said to be less impacted by the lack of sleep is also hard to believe, just because when I don’t get enough sleep I can definitely tell a difference in my attitude and also my motivation to get work and assignments done.

  3. awobken

    This makes sense to me, if I am for some reason lacking in sleep I will almost always refuse to do anything the next day. I am a complete mess when I have no sleep. Thank goodness it is a care phenomena and I am pretty good about getting good sleep. Though I will say University has most certainly thrown a rock in my sleep schedule. Community college was never quite like that.

  4. jesseboles

    I liked reading this article because it gave me reassurance for the next time I want to go to sleep earlier. It is true, we need our sleep in order to function. I am not the same when I am tired. I get irritable and sluggish, I can feel my whole personality and thought process change when I have had no sleep the night before.

  5. swong

    It is rare that I ever get less than eight hours of sleep, but the few times I do, I definitely notice that I am extremely irritable the next day. I do find it difficult to give this study too much credit, since there were only twelve participants. This sample size seems much too small to conclude anything except that additional research needs to be done. I would also question if this is truly because of gender, or is there is another variable that was not thought of. Perhaps the six men were just higher functioning without sleep than most?

    If this experiment were repeated with a much larger sample size (a few hundred, or preferably, thousands of men and women), it would be interesting to see if the results would be the same. The image about 30% of those in the U.S. workforce having less than six hours of sleep a night concerns me. I have been hearing a lot about the negative impacts lack of sleep has on a person, and I struggle to find anyone else in my age group who has adequate sleep. I wonder if the number for students (ages fourteen through twenty-two) is higher or lower than those in the workforce?

    I agree with Rångtell that working memory is key in many parts of life, but the conclusion that it impacts women a lot more than men seems strange to me. However, that may just be due to the fact that I am currently in a psychology of women class.

  6. Mary Meghan Rice

    This is a very interesting topic! I think this study should be done again, with more participants as well as different age groups, to see if the results would remain the same. I am a firm believer in the idea that sleep cures most things and if I am low on sleep I am usually not a happy camper. However, you mentioned a good point, does this only change our mood in the morning or does it last all day? This is something that I have not necessarily payed attention to! I would be interested to see if more studies have been done with this topic and if so what they found out!

  7. mmalapit

    I found this blog post to be super informative especially to a sample of UMW college students! One thing that worries me is the limited sample size of 12 participants and the fact that there may be other confounding variables that may have interfered with the results. Another thing that was interesting is that the study found that women lacked working memory after losing a night’s worth of sleep. Can this be applied to males as well? Maybe if there were a bigger sample size, random assignment, etc. we could potentially see a change in males as well. Overall, this was well written and for me, personally, I try to go to bed at a decent time in order to workout in the morning. If I don’t get adequate sleep time, then i definitely feel it both mentally and physically the next day!

  8. sjohns25

    I could really connect to this post! I have really bad sleep problems and have done sleep studies and everything. So I could really relate to what was being said. I know when I have a huge test the next day I do so much better if I try and get sleep rather than stay up all night and try to cram I cant remember anything that I was studying and feel horrible. But when I do get a good nights sleep my memory is working so much better. I also have tried many different sleeping pills and it is crazy the differences some can make. When you wake up the next day energized and ready to go vs. slow and tired. It really effects everything you are to do for that day. I know when I don’t sleep well the next day it is so hard for me to focus on what I am to do. I really enjoyed reading this super glad you posted it!

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