Does A Lack Of Sleep Affect Your Memory?

There is no denying that sleep deprivation affects our minds. We have all been there – tired, suffering from a lack of sleep and consequently finding ourselves doing strange things, struggling to recall what we entered a room for or attempting to squeeze information from our minds that just will not come. Because the brain is the most complex organ in the human body though, it is still in 2015 unknown exactly how it works. Consequently, the effect a lack of sleep plays in the day-to-day functioning of our brains and memory function specifically has been studied for some time.






Losing Four Hours Could Have A Detrimental Effect

Most recently, a study suggested that losing four hours of sleep a night may indeed have a negatively detrimental effect on a person’s ability to recall information when in a stressful situation. It is important to note that the study showed that it was specifically in stressful situations that the problem of recalling information occurred. That said, it is equally important to remember that stressful situations in modern life is unavoidable. Further, it is during stressful or pressured situations that we often need to call upon our ability to recall information quickly – in order to deal with the situation. Hence, findings that suggest those lacking sleep may experience problems in doing exactly that, are significant.


The study itself involved asking individuals to remember a location of card pairs shown on a computer screen. Whilst half of the group involved in the study were allowed a full eight hours of sleep, the other half were permitted only to sleep for four hours. The study participants were then all asked to recall the locations of the card pairs they had been shown the previous day. The results of those who had eight hours sleep were comparably the same as those who had only had four hours sleep, implying that inadequate sleep had little to no effect on long term memory functioning.


In contrast, when the exercise was repeated and distractions were introduced, such as noise, the ability to correctly identify the cards pairs dropped by 10% in those who had only had four hours sleep. Hence, the study results suggest that inadequate sleep could have a damaging effect upon the overall memory function. Reiterated, Dr Jonathan Cedernaes, of Sweden’s Uppsala university and the author of a report in the journal Sleep is quoted as having consequently suggested that ‘Delaying school start times and greater use of flexible work schedules to increase snooze time for those on habitual short sleep may improve their academic and occupational performance.’


Whilst at least some of the changes Dr Jonathan Cedernaes suggested may be difficult to implement, such as more flexible work schedules, there are of course numerous other ways in which every person can maximise their chances of a full night’s sleep. Eating a healthy diet, exercising for a minimum of 30 minutes each day, reducing or avoiding caffeine, nicotine and alcohol intake and ensuring both your bed and bedding permits for the great level of comfort all minimise the risk of sleep loss and of experiencing sleep disorders, such as insomnia.