Pull an all-nighter, zone out the next day: Lack of sleep found to impair working memory in women

Sleep is one of our most basic needs. That said, a lack of sleep causes adverse effects both in the mind and body. A study revealed that the effects of sleep deprivation on working memory performance were different between men and women. It was discovered that a decline in the working memory performance was particular in young women.

The study was conducted by a team of researchers from Uppsala University who looked at the effects of lack of sleep on working memory on both men and women. It was based on a sample of 12 young men and 12 young women. The participants underwent two experimental conditions. One condition involved them taking part in nocturnal sleep, which was scheduled from 10:30 in the evening until 6:30 in the morning. The next condition had the participants not being allowed to sleep for the whole night.

After each condition, the participants were asked to take part in a digital working memory exam wherein they had to learn and remember eight-digit sequences. As they were learning, they were either accompanied by silence or an audio distraction.

The results of the tests revealed that sleep loss did not affect the working memory performance of young men, while the memory of young women was affected. The young women recalled lesser digits after staying up all night, in comparison to after a night of sleep. Moreover, they were oblivious to the impairment in their working memory performance. According to the researchers, a lack of awareness of declined mental performance could lead to an increased risk of accidents and mistakes, which can be harmful in both private and occupational situations.

The findings of the study, which was published in the Journal of Sleep Research, indicate that young women who lack sleep are at risk of having difficulties in recalling or remembering things.

“Our study suggests that particular attention should be paid to young women facing challenges in which they have to cope with both a high working memory load and a lack of sleep,” said Frida Rångtell, a doctoral student at the Department of Neuroscience and lead author of the study.

How much sleep is enough sleep?

Sleep is an indicator of overall health and well-being of a person. The amount of sleep needed by each person depends on age, lifestyle, and health. (Related: New research suggests that sleep plays a vital role in brain health, with sleep deprivation being conducive to brain tissue loss.)

A 2014 study looked at the sleep duration recommendations of the National Sleep Foundation. In conducting the study, the group assembled a panel which consisted of 18 multidisciplinary experts, representing 12 stakeholder organizations. This was done to assess scientific literature regarding sleep duration recommendations. The researchers used the RAND/UCLA Appropriateness Method to identify expert recommendations for adequate sleep durations across the lifespan.

It was concluded that the adequate sleep duration differs across individuals. For babies, they need as much as 12 to 15 hours a day, which may help boost growth and development, while school-aged children need between nine and 11 hours of sleep every day. For teenagers, the panel considered eight to 10 hours of sleep as appropriate, seven to nine hours for young adults and adults, and seven to eight hours of sleep for older adults.

The findings of the study were published in the Journal of the National Sleep Foundation.

If you’d like to read more news stories and studies on brain function, please go to Mind.news.

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