The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Various Cognitive Measures

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Running head: OUTCOME OF SLEEP DEPRIVATION ON COGNITION

The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Various Cognitive Measures

The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Cognitive Processes

Sleep deprivation is a common occurrence in modern culture. Every day there seems to be twice as much work and half as much time to complete it in. This results in either extended periods of wakefulness or a decrease in sleep over an extended period of time. While some people may like to believe that they can train their bodies to not require as much sleep as they need, this belief is false. Sleep, by definition, is the natural periodic suspension of voluntary bodily functions and complete or partial suspension of consciousness, during which the powers of the body are restored (Ratcliff & Van Dongen, 2009). Only in the last century have the psychological and scientific areas of study began to investigate and explore the nature, purpose, and properties of sleep. The purpose of this essay is to analyze the value and effect of sleep deprivation on cognition. The majority of articles describe partial sleep deprivation as having negative effects on cognitive, behavioural, physiological, and emotional measures. From this information, it is derived that various cognitive abilities will affect productivity and performance. Therefore, it is hypothesized that sleep deprivation affects cognitive, behavioural, physiological and psychological measures because it increases and worsens stress, impairs cognitive function and emotional stability.

How an individual responds to sleep loss, whether it is partial deprivation (sleeping less than 5 hours in one 24-hour period), short-term total sleep deprivation (no sleep for 24-48 hours),and long-term total sleep deprivation (no sleep for more than 48 hours) can vary. Ratcliff et al. (2009) indicate that sleep deprivation has been shown to impact negatively on a wide range of cognitive abilities, such as behavioural, physiological and emotional. For example, mood changes including irritability, fatigue, difficulty in concentration, and disorientation to short-term memory alterations are due to decreased attention, concentration lapses, and decreased motivation.

Similar results were published by Alhola & polo-Kantola (2007). The study concluded that the person deprived of total sleep experiences negative mood, sleepiness, fatigue, and decline in alertness and performance. Some sleep-deprived individuals report visual hallucinations or distortions and feelings of paranoia. Systematic studies of total sleep deprivation have revealed some temporary cognitive deficits but no permanent effects.

Kloss, Szuba & Dinges (2002) discovered the most significant effect of sleep loss is the physiological sleepiness, or the tendency to fall asleep when there is a lack of stimuli. Sleepiness becomes extreme after the loss of a single night of sleep. Without competing stimuli, an individual lacking a night’s sleep can fall asleep within 2 or 3 minutes the next day. This can cause dramatic affects on productivity. After about 48 hours without sleep, microsleeps become increasingly more common even when participants are physically active (Kloss et al., 2002). Microsleeps are essentially several seconds of actual sleep with delta waves that interrupt the regular EEG of a person who is awake, which impairs his or her continuity of cognitive function (Kloss et al., 2002). Therefore, as sleepiness increases, an individual must increase effort to maintain a stable level of performance because microsleep generally happens directly before performance failure occurs.

In addition to the impairment of cognitive functions, adult symptoms of sleep deprivation may vary from those of a child. Yawning constantly, dozing off while watching a television show, poor concentration and grogginess while waking up are some of the symptoms adults display when they are deprived of sleep (Dahl, 1999). The symptoms of a...
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