How sleep deprivation affects our cognitive performance and brain function

Posted in: January 26, 2020 By: Bernadette Marie Wilson

Do you often forget things or tasks that you are sure you know or is it challenging to concentrate on complex assignments? If so, then you are probably experiencing insomnia or more commonly known as sleeplessness which is detrimental to your cognitive performance. 

Sleep deprivation affects brain performance.

That’s right; insomnia can keep hinder you from thinking clearly and put on a perpetual emotional roller-coaster. Studies show that chronic sleepiness can affect the output of the job, cause mood problems such as depression and anger, and can wreak havoc on relationships.

Recent research has set out some of the common reasons why we need adequate sleep and all of the tasks that the brain seems to perform as we sleep. There is more to find out, but here are a few explanations of why the brain needs sleep, and how a lack of sleep affects our cognitive ability and performance. 

Sleep deprivation slows down your thought processes

Researchers assessing sleepiness have found that a lack of sleep results in lower concentration and alertness. Focusing and paying attention becomes more complicated, and you are more easily confused. This also hinders the ability to carry out activities involving logical reasoning or abstract thought, all of which, are cognitive performance abilities.

Sleepiness hinders judgment, too. It’s more challenging to make choices because you can’t analyze circumstances and pick the right actions.

Lack of sleep can impair your memory

Research suggests that adequate sleep can strengthen the nerve connections which make our memories during sleep. Sleep embeds into our short-term memory the things we have learned and encountered over the day. Specific stages of sleep appear to play different roles in consolidating new information into memories. If you are cut short of sleep, it may interfere with these memory building cycles.

You may forget and often misplace things when you are sleepy. The inability to concentrate can further weaken memory and affect cognition. When you can’t focus on what’s at hand, it won’t make it into your short-term memory and long-term memory.

Sleeplessness makes learning new things difficult

Sleep deprivation impacts your learning ability in two ways. 

  1. It’s more difficult to pick up information because you can’t focus due to sleeplessness 
  2. You can’t learn effectively due to slow thought process and impairment of short-term memory

It also affects long-term memory, which is essential for learning. Sleepiness in children can lead to hyperactivity, which hampers learning as well. Teens are more prone to lose focus, discipline, and memory ability in school to perform well.

Insomnia links to slowed reaction time

Insomnia slows down the reaction time, a particular problem while driving, doing work or other activities requiring a quick response. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, at least 100,000 police-reported crashes are due to driver fatigue each year. Nearly one-third of Americans reported nodding off while driving in the 2017 survey of the National Sleep Foundation.

Evaluate your quality of sleep

Because the needs of an individual’s sleep differ, experts say how you feel is the best way to assess whether you get enough sleep. If your body is getting proper sleep, you shouldn’t feel sleepy after waking up. You should be enthusiastic all day long and wind down gradually as you reach your usual bedtime. 

Ask yourself if your performance is where you want it to be. Evaluating your daily skills and quality of life is critical to assess whether a lack of sleep is affecting your cognition and performance. 

Learn more about how to improve your sleep and quality of life by getting a free copy of Becoming Extraordinary 

References

http://jass.neuro.wisc.edu/2017/01/Lab%20601%20Group%201.pdf

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s41105-017-0099-5