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Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Memory

3233 words (13 pages) Essay in Psychology

08/02/20 Psychology Reference this

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An article named “Sleep Deprivation and Memory Loss” states, “…sleep affects physical reflexes, fine motor, skills, and judgments, too.” Also, in chapter 7 of the book “Introduction to Psychology” by OpenStax College, the author mentions one of the ways to enhance your memory is to get enough sleep. In addition to the main point, it also included some other memory-enhancing strategies. The book emphasize that your brain is still working while you are asleep and by getting a long healthy sleep can help the brain to process more information from what we have learned during the day into the long-term memory. This shows how important sleeping is, especially to our memory. People are now more concern about how the quality of sleep can be the cause of many brain issues as well as the important of creating habits to enhance memory.

 “Introduction of Psychology” (chapter 5) defined sleep as, “low levels of physical activity and reduced sensory awareness.” Sleep is what people do every day, it has a big impact not only on the physical health but also mentally. On the other hand, sleep has a strong relationship with memory. The condition of the brain and how memory are formed depend on the quality of your sleep. Our brain is still working when you are asleep, it gathers the information you collected during the day, refine those materials, and create memories. Memory forming process includes three steps: encoding, storage, retrieval. The authors of “Introduction of Psychology” also explained the further meaning of these three steps, “[E]ncoding involves the input of information into the memory system. Storage is the retention of the encode information. Retrieval, or getting the information out of memory and back to awareness, is the third function.” During sleep important brain waves are produced to store memories. The brain waves transfer memories from the hippocampus to prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain where long term memories are stored. While sleeping, your brain is actually working the most, this is when the “storage stage” happening, by having a good deep sleep every night, the information that you have learned during the day will get to your long-term memory faster because your brain have enough time to produce brain waves to receive all that information.

Getting enough sleep is very important, researches show that it helps maintaining weight, lower the stress level, improving mood, and much more. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 12 to 18 hours for infants, toddlers or children need 10 to 14 hours, adolescents and adults need 7 to 9 hours in average. Many people are dealing with sleep deprivation and it is very uncomfortable. The issue is caused by the lifestyle choices or because the requirements of work, school, etc. For instant, a couple with a new-born baby is more likely to have sleep deprivation than a single person. Students who are doing work-study program can experience this too. Furthermore, people who deal with sleep deprivation face many risks, imagine driving when you are not fully awake, accidents can happen any time. Because of that, getting enough sleep is so important. Sleep deprivation associates with many different risks including heart disease, memory disorders. Based on a study of 72,000 nurses, reported by Women’s Health Weekly, “Women who averaged 5 hours or fewer of sleep a night were 39% more likely to develop heart disease than those who got 8 hours.” This does not mean sleeping as much as you can, longer than you probably should, is a good idea either because too much of sleep can also develop heart disease. The same study shows the risk of having too much sleep is, “[…] 9 or more hours of shuteye was reported with a 37% higher risk of heart disease.”

The effects of sleep on human’s brain, other than physical health, are various. Sleeping relates to how the brain functioned and can cause many memory disorders. There are two types of memory disorders which are mostly related to sleeping and widely recognized: Alzheimer’s disease and amnesia. More specifically,

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative and fatal brain disease, in which cell to cell connections in the brain are lost. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.Globally approximately 1–5% of the population is affected by Alzheimer’s disease. (Wikipedia 1)

Meanwhile, “Amnesia is an abnormal mental state in which memory and learning are affected out of all proportion to other cognitive functions in an otherwise alert and responsive patient.” (Wikipedia 1). These diseases can be found in any group of age, but for many reasons, older people are more likely to have these memory disorders than youngers. When we get older, the brain starts to lose its neurons and neurotransmitters, and as time goes by it will shrink. Younger brains have more neurons to transform the information into memory faster, the older you get the slower the information will reach your storage and the faster you will forget them because your brain does not have as much as neurons like when you were twenty. The brain takes more time to translate and delivery information from neurons to neurons because there are fewer of them, in addition, the number of neurons in your brain is not enough to think about too many things at once so you tend to forget little pieces of information faster if they seem not as important as others.

Other diseases associate with memory disoders are diabetes, heart diseases, and arthritis. In order to lower the risk of having them, taking actions in daily life can be very helpful. According to an article called “How to lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease” from Daily News Egypt, “…keep our cholesterol, blood sugar level, and blood pressure under control, since it has been shown that when they are not between normal levels, it increases the risk of Alzheimer’s, …also having a healthy diet with plenty of vegetables, beans, whole grains, fish, and olive oil.” There are a variety of food which have great benefits for the brain, any food which is rich in omega-3, antioxidants, will be good. Berries and fish are great choices when it comes to brain foods. They are perfect for those who do not like to eat vegetables. Eating berries may reduce the risk of memory loss because it contained antioxidants, which improve the communicate between brain cells. Fish contained a huge amount of omega-3 fatty acids, which is essential for the development of the brain. Omega-3 is also known for reducing heart disease, in “On top of everything else, fish is a brain food”, a Toronto dietitian named Leslie Beck noted,

When it comes to the heart, the fish story is even bigger. It is generally agreed that eating fish two to three times a week can reduce the risk of heart disease. The latest in a string of studies showing that fish benefits the heart appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine in April, when U.S. researchers reported results of a study showing that men who consumed at least eight ounces of fish a week-most ate canned tuna-had a 40-per-cent lower risk of a fatal heart attack. (On top of everything else, fish is a brain food)

He also mentioned the result of a five-year study of 939 elderly men by Dutch researchers that, “…high fish consumption associates with less decline in brain functions.”

 Another thing people should know is coffee actually help the brain to be more awake in the morning. Coffee contains caffeine which can boost the thinking process, light up neurons and make the brain more active. Coffee and energy drinks are high in caffeine. Caffeine and antioxidants improve concentration and reduce the risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. But like an old saying, “Too much of something is not good.” People have been relying too much on caffeine without any awareness. A study made by Sleep Research Society and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, reported by Philippines Daily Inquirer in the article “Coffee may not give you the needed boost-study” found that, “…after three nights of poor sleep, caffeine would have no benefit at all if you need to get your concentration…A quick nap will still do a lot better for the sleep-deprived than another cup of coffee.” Caffeine can prevent drowsiness but overusing it come with side effects. It not only about whether it works or not, caffeine also has many side effects which people do not recognize yet. According to an article called “Caffeine Overdrive” by Matthew Kadey implied, “…caffeine can remain in your system for several hours, drinking super-caffeinated beverages later in the day may contribute to insomnia.” Kadey also noted,

Normally, a person should only consume no more than 400 milligrams a day. This amount equal 4 cups of coffee or two energy drinks. It is normal to people who are used to caffeine, but if you are not, and only consume caffeine once in a while can lead to bigger problem. (Kadey 1)

The side effect of caffeine is increasing blood pressure. Adults who consume more than the recommended amount are facing the risk of having seizure, nosebleeds, blurred vision. Those who are not used to caffeine and only use it once a while with a high amount can face a bigger risk of having high-blood pressure. Even though it wakes your brain up but the body will experience different problems if you keep doing this. Furthermore, caffeine is like medicine, your body need time is adapted to it to be able to make it work. If you are not a regular consumer of caffeine, your body is not used to it and by consuming a large amount every time you need to stay awake can cause health problems afterwards. This is happening to most people now when they are unaware of what they are consuming can cause such terrible effects.

Other than trying to wake the brain up every morning by coffee or energy drinks, there are better ways to keep the brain active. Try to learn something new like a skill, a language or reading can really boost the thinking process and keep the brain functioned. If you can spend five minutes every day checking Facebook or Instagram, why not change it into a healthier habit like reading a short poem or learn some words from a new language. Aside from learning, exercising is a great way to improve your brain. Consumer Reports, a non-profit organization, refers a study of 300 older adults published in December 2010, “…those who walked at least 72 blocks, roughly six miles, each week had more gray matter than those who did not walk as much, and cut their risk of developing memory problems in half. Take time to exercise at least 30 minutes daily maybe walking, biking, or any other activity that gets your heart pumping.”

 If you not a workout person, instead of looking at social media, you can play games, those requires your logic skill like puzzling, solving problems. Solving a puzzle can be boring doing alone, then have some friends or family do it with you. Not only it helps to keep the brain active but also tighten relationships. Most of the time, people are unaware of these things, but even with small actions in daily life could change your life forever.

Everyone is dealing with memory problems and memory-enhancing strategies are things you will find surprisingly easy to do every day, so why hesitate to try. Students can improve their productivity just by doing these simple things: make a plan, stop multi-tasking, and make sure to get enough sleep every night.

It is easy to plan out a schedule, try to plan the things you need to do in one day and stick with that schedule, by having everything planned out already, it is easier to track what you need to work on next, rather than jumping from task to task, focusing on one task and finish them one by one. For students, simply take two hours every evening after class to revise the materials you have learned during the day. Setting up a study plan is crucial because it will be more efficient to study every day for two hours than staying up for ten hours straight, or even spend a night, to study every single time you have a test. Practicing right after you learn something is useful to form better memory.

People are usually misinterpreted the use of multi-tasking, it is true that the brain can think about two things at once, but this is not just about thoughts but rather how multi-tasking can damage the cognitive function of the brain. Even though it seems to get the works done faster but it actually not. People multi-tasking every day without realizing how harmful it is to their brain. They check their phones continuously while having work done or listening to music while writing. This happens to most of students because they trying to too many things at once. Even when they are in the middle of a lecture, they still try to finish other class work and it is even worse when they actually think they are good at multi-tasking. Multitaskers are so confident about their skill that they do not realize how damaging it can be. Multi-tasking effects the memory and sometimes results in forgetting right after learning something new because the brain is always distracted by something else. The longer you do this the more damage it is to the brain in the long run. Just a small action like looking at your email while writing a report can reduce the attention to what you are doing. This means try to work or study at a quiet place, put your phone away, turn of any notifications, will help you to focus on one thing and finish faster. Multi-tasking is what most people are used to because they have the idea of doing two things at once can help them to finish faster, but it is a total false. Multi-tasking has no benefit at all and can waste more of your time.

Lastly, the most important thing is to get enough sleep. As mentioned above, sleep plays a crucial role for memory. Plan a time where you have to go to bed, anytime that can make you wake up in the morning without feeling tired. Pick an earliest time as possible because even though you may find four hours of sleep work for your body, it can be harmful after a while.

Your memory can be trained to be better. You just need to keep practice every day and remember some tricks. When learning something, try to connect the information to your life, imagine how useful it can be to you. Another way is to link the information together and create an image that contained all of them, for example when mom asks you to buy some grocery, instead of remembering the whole list, just imagine how those grocery is related to each other, maybe it is a list of ingredients to make pancake or a list of cleaning tools for the bathroom. By imagining the scene of making pancake or cleaning the bathtub can help you to remember what to buy better than learning that list of things by heart. Beside from that, color coding is another trick. This is why highlighters are very helpful, not only they emphasize main points, but color code the information in groups by different colors can help you to find the information faster, this method helps the brain to organize and remember the materials in groups which is useful for recalling afterwards. Another strategy is chunking. This means you take small pieces of information that share similarities and group them together into larger chunks. This method works because your short-term memory can only store up to seven chunks of information at the time. By grouping smaller information into bigger chunks, you can remember more things at once. For example, when you want to remember a phone number like 7363861946, it is better to divided them into 736-386-1946 and because your brain can remember up to seven chunks, so instead of repeating a ten digits number you only have to remember three chunks of number.

These methods are what people casually do without realizing doing it. If you pay attention to these tips and turn them into daily practices, your memory can absolutely be improved. Creating healthier habits is not difficult, there are basic things to remember in order to get a better memory: make plans , exercise, no multi-tasking, eat more fish and berries, and get enough sleep. Not only these habits help to enhance your memory, but also prevent and reduce the risks of having brain problems and health issues.


  • Alic, Margaret, and Andrea Nienstedt. “Sleep Deprivation.” The Gale Encyclopedia of Public Health, edited by Laurie J. Fundukian, vol. 2, Gale, 2013, pp. 862-867. Global Issues in Context, Accessed 17 Oct. 2018.
  • “Coffee may not give you the needed boost-study.” Philippines Daily Inquirer [Makati City, Philippines], 24 June 2016. Global Issues in Context, Accessed 10 Oct. 2018.
  • “How to Boost Your Memory.” Consumer Reports, vol. 76, no. 10, Oct. 2011, p. 7. EBSCOhost,,ip,cpid&custid=bhc&db=aph&AN=65547619&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
  • “How to lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.” Daily News Egypt [Egypt], 21 Mar. 2018. Global Issues in Context, Accessed 10 Oct. 2018.
  • Kadey, Matthew. “Caffeine Overdrive.” Environmental Nutrition, vol. 39, no. 1, Jan. 2016, p. 4. EBSCOhost,,ip,cpid&custid=bhc&db=fsr&AN=111491920&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
  • “Link to sleep imbalance found.” Women’s Health Weekly, 20 Feb. 2003, p. 26. Global Issues in Context, Accessed 10 Oct. 2018.
  • Nordqvist, Joseph. :Poor Sleep Causes Memory Loss and Forgetfulness.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 28 Jan. 2013. Web.
    21 Oct. 2018.
  • “On top of everything else, fish is a brain food.” Maclean’s, 27 Oct. 1997, p. 54. Global Issues in Context, Accessed 22 Oct. 2018.
  • OpenStax College. Psychology.[email protected]:1/Psychology.
  • Wikipedia contributors. “Memory disorder.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 23 Oct. 2018. Web. 24 Oct. 2018.
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