Sleep Deficiency Affects Memory

Sleep Deficiency
Sleep Deficiency
Courtesy of Andrej Lišakov (Unsplash+)

Sleep deficiency can negatively affect a person’s life. It can cause serious side effects, such as the increased risk of injury, illness, depression, and judgment errors. Other consequences of insufficient sleep include reduced focus, decreased memory retention, and a poorer quality of life.

Nearly 70 million Americans report sleep disorders. The American Sleep Association reports that 30% of adults experience short-term insomnia. Approximately 10% have a long-lasting form of the most common cause of sleep deficiency.

Moreover, almost 40% of people report accidentally falling asleep during the day, and another 5% report dozing off while driving a vehicle.

Sleep deficiency likely plays a role in traffic accidents and fatalities. However, statistics that identify underlying accident causes are not available. The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) reports that over 32,000 people are killed in vehicle crashes yearly in the United States. At the same time, another 2 million people are injured in motor vehicle crashes.

Other conditions resulting from sleep deficiency include hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers.

How Sleep Deficiency Affects Memory and Concentration

Sleep Deficiency
Courtesy of Green Chameleon (Unsplash)

Sleep gives the body time to rest and recharge. During this time, the body busily processes information from the day. First, it discards unnecessary information, then the brain encodes and consolidates memories.

Scientists believe that sleep is vital in making memories “stick,” which allows them to be recalled later. Without the recommended sleep of six to nine hours, the brain has a more challenging time absorbing and recalling new information.

There is a link between sleep deficiency and poor grades. Not sleeping or getting enough sleep can lower a person’s learning abilities by as much as 40%, explains Sleep Foundation writer Danielle Pacheco.

However, researchers suggest that a person’s sleep quality could also affect their concentration ability. Students often study all night for an important test. Not only did they feel sleepy and unable to stay on task, but they also had trouble recalling desperately needed facts. In addition, younger students often react to sleep deficiency with irritability and misbehavior.

Nightly Sleep Recommendations

Sleep Deficiency
Created by Cathy Milne-Ware using Stencil

The CDC reports that getting enough sleep is vital for people of all ages. The health agency also stresses avoiding sleep deficiency by maintaining a healthy sleep routine.

“Even one night of short sleep can affect you the next day. Not only are you more likely to be in a bad mood, be less productive at work, and be involved in a motor vehicle crash.”

Routinely sleeping between four and six hours a night is one common characteristic of short sleep. The recommended amount of nightly sleep is determined by age, according to the Sleep Foundation:

  • Newborns ages 0-3 months should sleep 14-17 hours.
  • Infants, 4-11 months old, should have 12-15 hours of sleep.
  • Toddlers ages 1-2 years should sleep 11-14 hours.
  • Preschool, ages 3-5 years should have 10-13 hours of sleep.
  • School-age children, 5-13 years old, should sleep 9-11 hours.
  • Teens ages 14-17 should have 8-10 hours of sleep.
  • Young adults, 18-25 years old, should sleep 7-9 hours.
  • Adults ages 26-64 years old should have 7-9 hours of sleep.
  • Older adults, 65 years and older, should sleep 7-8 hours.

When to Contact a Healthcare Professional About Sleep Deficiency

Anyone concerned about the quantity and quality of their sleep should talk with their healthcare professional. The Sleep Foundation recommends speaking with a doctor if a person shows signs of sleep deficiency.

Discussing sleep patterns, waking up groggy or unrefreshed, feeling less mentally alert than normal during the day, and having unwanted awakenings at night can help doctors ensure a person does not suffer from sleep deficiency.

Written by Cathy Milne-Ware


CDC: Motor Vehicle Crash Deaths
Sleep Foundation: Memory and Sleep; by Danielle Pacheco, Medically Reviewed by Dr. Anis Rehman, Endocrinologist
Sleep Foundation: Short Sleepers; by Eric Suni, Medically Reviewed by Dr. Abhinav Singh, Sleep Physician
News-Medical.Net: Health Effects of Poor Sleep – Quantity and Quality; by Dr. Liji Thomas, Reviewed by Susha Cheriyedath, M.Sc.
American Academy of Sleep Medicine: The good life: Good sleepers have better quality of life and  less depression; by Doug Dusik
WebMD: Sleep Deprivation and Memory Loss; by Hedy Marks, Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD
National Library of Medicine: Impact of Poor Sleep Quality on the Academic Performance of Medical Students; by Ganpat Maheshwari and Faizan Shaukat

Featured and Top Image by Andrej Lišakov Courtesy of Unsplash+
First Inset Image by Green Chameleon Courtesy of Unsplash
Second Inset Image by Cathy Milne-Ware Courtesy of Stencil App

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