Sleep is essential to the body and its functions, promoting bodily rest and rejuvenation in the neurons and other cells that are replaced or repaired during times of sleep. Sleep has been proposed to conserve energy, detoxify the brain, and control thermoregulation within the brain ( Maquet 2001). Ultimately, since sleep is so essential to the human body, scientist recommend approximately eight hours of sleep a night to promote efficient performance and thinking. On the other hand, within this fast paced society, few people receive the sleep that the body needs, and ultimately sleep deprivation affects a significant portion of the population. In college students short periods of sleep deprivation often occur in meeting deadlines or performing exercises. The increased popularity of late night TV and use of internet has also largely contributed to the number of people who suffer from the lack of sleep. How many of us can honestly say that we would turn off the television in the middle an episode of ‘Breaking Bad” to get a good night sleep? Although you may be up to date on your favorite series, lack of adequate sleep not only reduces productivity at work, but personal well being and safety. It is important in this respect to understand the effects of sleep deprivation on the body. Total sleep deprivation (TSD) has been shown to negatively affect many physiological, cognitive, and behavioral measures within the body (Miro 2002). During a regular sleep, the body’s vital signs fluctuate throughout the night. Body temperature, for example, follows a circadian rhythm, but is also influenced by sleep. During rapid eye movement sleep (REM) the body reaches the deepest sleep possible, in which most dreaming also occurs. During REM, the body’s temperature is at its lowest level. However, if sleep deprivation occurs and REM sleep is never reached, the body’s internal temperature would be affected. Also, during a normal course of a day-night cycle, the body’s blood pressure and heart rate slow down while the person is asleep and rise steadily as the person awakens. It is to be expected that a sleep deprivation would affect these vital signs. Since many students pull all-nighters to study for tests and finish project deadlines, it would be important to understand if sleep deprivation may have any effects on the person’s cognitive and memory skills. While the body’s vital signs are certainly affected, it is also important to consider the relationship between sleep and cognitive skills. The role of sleep in learning and memory is poorly understood and has yet to be detrimed and precisely characterized. What most researchers in the field of sleep study believe is that sleep is primarily involved in consolidation of memory traces, and that such traces may reactivated and incorporated into long term memory (Maquet 2001) However, it is not known if sleep is the only thing that solidifies memory or if sleeping just allows for more favorable conditions for memory storing. Some available data suggests that sleeping during the night after a specific training session is critical to perceptual learning. Also, a significant enhancement in learning is seen after being allowed to sleep the previous night. Subjects who were sleep deprived during the post-training night showed virtually no performance improvements the following days (Maquet 2001). But we are still unsure exactly how sleep and sleep-deprivation affects the overall memory and learning skills. Many researchers feel that tests performed in past studies to assess cognitive ability after total sleep deprivation were not accurate and precise enough to detect subtle discrepancies between the healthy and the sleep deprived mind (Siegel 2001). I took a poll of college student six college students (three male, three female) and asked about their GPA and how many hours of sleep they got. “On average I probably get like 5” says a 20 year old female student with a 3.4 GPA. I found that was a common answer among the students I polled with the most hours of sleep being eight. Surprising the students with more hours of sleep had a lower GPA. This could be attributed to the fact that my sample was not large enough and the polls was taken a week before finals. In a similar study done by the North Carolina State University, results showed that sleep deprivation released a negative effect on critical thinking, creativity and memory. Since many people struggle to get enough sleep, much concern has been raised over the correlation between sleep and memory and learning skills. It is hypothesized that REM sleep has important role in memory consolidation, but the evidence is weak and contradictory (Siegel 2001). In that same article, Siegel continues to explain that many studies show that REM sleep deprivation does not affect learning of “intentional” tasks such as paired associate learning, verbal learning, and retention of anagrams, and thus scientists should focus on procedural learning tasks instead (Siegel 2001. Based off the research I’ve done I think that regular sleep and good time management is essential for success in college and elsewhere. With a lack of sleep come many unwanted side effects, ultimately including depression of human vital signs, and impairment of thinking and memory.
Maquet, Pierre (2001). The role of sleep in learning and memory. Science, 294, 1048-1052.
Miro, E., Cano-Lonzao, M.C., & Buela-Casal, G. (2002). Electrodermal activity during total sleep deprivation and its relationship with other activation and performance measures. Journal of Sleep Research, 11, 105-112.
Siegel, Jerome M. (2001). The REM sleep-memory consolidation hypothesis. Science, 294, 1058-1063