I have a lot of friends whose favorite thing in the entire day after food is sleeping. If I’m being honest it’s mine too. A good night snooze helps me get through the day smoothly and I can give my best. We all know that sleep is very beneficial but are we underestimating the power of sleep? Research has shown that an average adult requires 7-9 hours of sleep a night but are we getting the amount we need? (Hopper, 2014) If we keep undermining the importance of sleep we have a high chance of suffering from paranoia, hallucinations, moodiness and a host of other psychological problems.
Here are some of the most profound psychological effects of lack of sleep:
- Sleepy brains have to work harder–Since brains that are sleep deprived aren’t as efficient, they have to work harder. Studies have shown that more energy is thrust into the prefrontal cortex to clear the person of the effects of sleep deprivation.
- Short-term memory becomes short–Lack of sleep causes severe decrements in working memory. Without short-term memory, a person can’t even hold simple letters, let alone perform complex tasks.
- Long-term memory is affected–Sleep plays a vital role in retentions. While we sleep, our brain orders, integrates and makes sense of things that have happened to us and also consolidate our learning while we sleep. Lack of sleep badly disrupts this process making it harder to learn new skills.
- Poor attention–Humans have incredible powers of attention. Lack of sleep, though, causes these powers to go downhill. Without enough sleep, we can’t pay attention to our senses as well as we would like. Thus, we get easily distracted when we are tired.
- Planning goes haphazard–After 36 hours without sleep, your ability to plan and coordinate your actions starts to go wrong. Tests show that this vital ability to decide when and how to start or stop tasks quickly goes awry with the lack of sleep. Sleep deprived people easily get stuck in loops of activity or fogs of indecision.
- Habits take over–Since the sleep deprived find it difficult to make plans or control how they start or stop actions, they have to fall back to habits. Lack of sleep means we rely more on repeating the same actions in the same situations. There’s also a high chance we may indulge in bad habits, for example, consuming junk food, etc.
- Risky business–Studies using card games have found that with the lack of sleep, players get stuck in a strategic rut. They seem incapable of changing their game plan on the basis of experience. Sleepy people keep taking risks, even though it’s obviously not working for them.
- Different studies are pointing to how the lack of sleep damages brain cells. One recent study found that in mice 25% of certain brain cells died as a result of a prolonged lack of sleep. Other studies have found lower integrity white matter in the brain, possibly as a result of lack of sleep. Lack of sleep is no good psychologically; it’s also no good physiologically. (Dean, nd)
Also, studies have shown that for people who don’t get enough Zs during the night, daytime naps can improve their alertness and motor performance. Companies have allotted dedicated nap spaces in hopes of boosting their employee’s productivity and creativity. Examples of such are Goggle, Uber, Ben & Jerry’s, etc. (Weir, 2016)
Dean, D. J. (nd). PsychBlog. Retrieved on December 24, 2016, from www.spring.org.uk: http://www.spring.org.uk/2014/03/sleep-deprivation-the-10-most-profound-psychological-effects.php
Hopper, E. (2014, November 5). HealthPsych. Retrieved on December 24, 2016, from www.healthypsych.com: https://healthypsych.com/benefits-of-good-nights-sleep/
Weir, K. (2016, July/August nd). Monitor on Psychology, APA magazine. The science of sleep, pp. 48-51.
Image Courtesy: freeimages
[Contributed by Mariah Dias, undergraduate student of Psychology during her internship.]