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Study Probes Impact of Poor Sleep on Memory, Overall Well-Being

New research discovers inadequate sleep at night leads to poor memory and increases the risk of depression, anxiety, and stress.

The new U.K. study found that those who receive less than five hours of sleep a night found it difficult to function effectively during the day.

The sleep deficit was related to life challenges such as people forgetting to carry out tasks, struggling to remember where things were, and forgetting to do something they had set out to do such as post a letter or take medication.

In the study, University of Leeds psychologists Drs. Anna Weighall and Ian Kellar looked at data from a survey of the sleeping habits of more than 1,000 U.K. adults aged 18 to 80.

Results from the study were presented by Weighall at a meeting of the European Society of Cognitive Psychology in Postdam, Germany.

Weighall said the study was unique in that “A lot of previous sleep research has been based on lab studies — this is the first time we have surveyed people in their everyday lives.

“What is emerging is the debilitating impact of poor patterns of sleep. People who are not getting enough sleep are at risk of experiencing a much lower quality of life and it hinders their ability to function effectively when they are awake.”

Scientists have recognized that sleep is important for laying down new memories and in re-processing what is already “stored” in the brain, selecting what needs to be retained and what can be forgotten.

This study looked at the relationship between quality and quantity of sleep and the cognitive processes around memory and recall, as well as wider indicators of physical and mental well-being.

Researchers asked volunteers to fill out a questionnaire about their sleep patterns, memory performance, mental wellbeing, and quality of life.

An analysis of the responses found a statistically significant relationship between poor sleep and reduced mental well-being, and a highly significant relationship between lack of sleep and an increase in everyday memory problems.

These relationships were even stronger in those who habitually sleep for less than five hours a night.

“There is now a very compelling case to say there is a strong relationship between getting a good night’s sleep and experiencing better health, well-being, and memory function,” Weighall said.

The findings indicate that many U.K. adults are sleep deprived and that this presents a real issue for public health.

Kellar, a health psychologist, said sleep needed to be seen as a public health priority in just the same way as maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, and engaging in physical activity.

Although the standard recommendation is for adults to receive between seven and eight hours of sleep a night, it is estimated that one in four adults receives less than five hours sleep a night.

Source: University of Leeds

Study Probes Impact of Poor Sleep on Memory, Overall Well-Being

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Study Probes Impact of Poor Sleep on Memory, Overall Well-Being. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 6 Sep 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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