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by Kimberly Fenn, Michigan State University
The importance of sleep cannot be denied. A good night’s sleep can make anyone feel better, but sleep deprivation can have serious negative effects on both your body and your brain. So what can you do to compensate for the lack of sleep? In other words, how can you sleep less and still perform at peak performance?
As a psychologist who studies how sleep affects memory, I am also interested in how sleep deprivation affects memory and cognition. After conducting initial research on sleep deprivation and false confessions, students and I in the Michigan State University Sleep Learning Lab wanted to know what interventions could reverse the negative effects of sleep deprivation.
We found a simple answer. There is no substitute for sleep.
A cup of coffee may give you a boost, but it won’t completely make up for lost sleep.
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Lack of sleep impairs cognition
Scientists have long known that sleep deprivation impairs our ability to maintain alertness. Sleep-deprived participants were much more likely to be inattentive if asked to perform a very simple task of monitoring a computer screen and pressing a button each time a red dot appeared. . They are unaware of the bright red dot and cannot respond within half a second. Such attention deficits are due to the build-up of sleep pressure and are more common during the 24-hour circadian cycle when the body expects to be asleep.
Studies investigating the effects of sleep induction on more complex types of thinking show somewhat mixed results. So my team and I set out to find out how not letting people sleep through the night affects different types of thinking. Participants were asked to perform a variety of cognitive tasks in the evening and then randomly assigned to either go home and sleep or stay up all night in the lab. Participants who were allowed to sleep returned in the morning and all completed the cognitive task again.
In addition to impaired attention, sleep deprivation was also found to increase placekeeping errors. Playkeeping is a complex ability that involves performing a series of steps in order without skipping or repeating them. This is similar to baking a cake from memory following a recipe. Don’t forget to add the egg or accidentally add salt twice.
Can caffeine replace sleep?
Next, I decided to test different methods that might compensate for the lack of sleep. What if you didn’t get enough sleep last night? Many people reach for coffee and energy drinks. A 2022 study found that more than 90% of sampled American adults consume some form of caffeine daily. We wanted to see if caffeine could help us stay alert and avoid placekeeping errors after lack of sleep.
Interestingly, we found that caffeine improved alertness in sleep-deprived participants very well, and their performance was similar to those who slept through the night. Giving caffeine to those who slept through the night also improved performance. So caffeine helped everyone stay alert, not just those who had trouble sleeping. This result is not surprising, as other studies have found similar results.
However, we found that caffeine did not reduce placekeeping errors in either the sleep-deprived or sleep-deprived groups. This means that if you’re sleep deprived, caffeine may help you stay awake and play Candy His Crush, but it likely won’t help you pass an algebra exam. To do.
Can a nap make up for lost sleep?
Of course, caffeine is an artificial alternative to sleep. I also thought sleep was probably the best alternative to sleep. You’ve probably heard that napping during the day improves energy and performance. It is therefore logical to assume that a nighttime nap would have a similar effect.
We gave some participants the opportunity to nap for 30 or 60 minutes during an overnight fasting period from 4:00 am to 6:00 am. This time period roughly coincides with the lowest point of arousal in the circadian cycle. Importantly, we found that participants who took a nap did not perform better than participants who stayed up all night on either simple attention tasks or more complex place management tasks.
Thus, taking a mid-night nap had no appreciable benefit on cognitive performance the morning after a night of overall sleep deprivation.
get your Z
Caffeine can help you wake up better and be more alert, but it may not help you with tasks that require complex thinking. Also, taking a short nap on nights when you need to stay awake may make you feel better, but probably won’t affect your performance.
In short, enough sleep is essential for the mind and brain, and there is no substitute for sleep.
Professor of Psychology Kimberly Fenn Michigan State University
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Please read the original article.
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