Sleep Has an Affect on Memory and Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

sleep has an affect on memory, and how narcolepsy can affect memory. Finally, it will discuss how to avoid sleep deprivation.


Sleep. We cannot live without it, but sometimes, it seems like we would like to. Sleep deprivation has become much more common in our hectic and demanding society. "Like the religious ascetics of medieval times, many people today regard sleep as 'time lost.' They regret that the day is only twenty-four hours long and that they do not have time to do all the things they should do or would like to do" (Borbaely 158). One report notes that most people would rather sleep an hour more than they usually do, and in another study, people who slept less that six hours a night displayed the tendency to fall asleep during the day, or complain of being tired during the day. In addition, most people admit to sleeping longer on weekends than they do during the week (Borbaely 159-160).

Many studies have pointed to short-term memory loss, and mental impairment because of sleep deprivation. However, in a study done on mice, scientists taught them to run a maze, then deprived them of sleep, to see what happened to their training.

When the animal had to run the maze in a reversed pattern, D sleep [sleep deprivation] was again increased. These authors found that sleep deprivation produces impairment of retention only when it occurs during the first three hours after learning, during the period when D. sleep is increased in control animals. After that time, sleep deprivation has no effect (Arnold 427).

Thus, this study showed memory loss may occur if sleeplessness occurs shortly after learning a new task, but some studies indicate it may not be a permanent impairment after sleep deprivation. Later studies show that it may affect different portions of the brain in different ways, affecting some types of memory loss and not others.

In another study, scientists gave subjects a list of words then allowed to sleep for thirty seconds, or ten minutes. Results found that both sets of study members were unable to recall some of the words on the list, and in some cases, they could not recall any of them. The researchers believe that when sleep occurs shortly after learning new material, the long-term memory cannot process the material, and it is therefore lost. Those who suffer from sleep deprivation, and then find themselves falling asleep during the day for short moments may experience this memory loss. This could seriously affect their job performance, especially if they work in an industry where they operate some type of machinery or vehicles.

Regardless of the cause of the memory deficit observed during the testing sessions, the findings indicate that amnesia occurs for auditory material presented immediately prior to sleep onset. An inability to recall what happened during a 3-min interval can have disastrous consequences in many jobs (Wyatt and Bootzin 124).

Long-term sleep deprivation can affect a person's mood, memory, and stress levels. More recent studies have shown that while the brain is more active in some areas after periods of sleep deprivation, other areas of the brain become sluggish, or shut down completely.

Sleep deprivation is bad for your brain when you are trying to do high-level [thinking] tasks,' study co-author J. Christian Gillin, MD, tells WebMD. 'It may have serious consequences both on performance and on the way your brain functions' (DeNoon).

Most subjects in sleep deprivation studies fell into deep, long sleeps after the studies ended, up to 14 hours in length. They then reported they felt fine, and resumed their normal daily schedules.

Clearly, sleep deprivation can have a devastating affect on the individual. If allowed to continue, it can affect certain types of memory loss, impair decision making abilities, and even cause accident and job related injuries if the individual falls asleep during a work shift after suffering from sleeplessness. As studies into sleep deprivation continue and improve, we should be able to learn more about what causes sleep deprivation, and how to avoid it.


On the other side of the sleep scale is narcolepsy. This disease causes people to fall asleep almost immediately, no matter what they are doing. They can fall asleep while walking, talking, or eating, or performing just about any task. The disease affects about one in…

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