Can coffee or a nap make up for lack of sleep? No – a psychologist explains why

The importance of sleep cannot be denied. Everyone feels better after a good night’s sleep, although sleep deprivation can occur deeply negative effects on both the body and the brain. So what can you do to compensate for lack of sleep? In other words, how can you get less sleep and still perform at your best?

As a psychologist While I’m studying the ways sleep enhances memory, I’m also interested in how sleep deprivation affects memory and cognition. After some initial research Sleep deprivation and false confessionsmy students at Michigan State University Sleep and learning laboratory and I wanted to see what interventions could reverse the negative effects of sleep deprivation.

We found a simple answer: there is no substitute for sleep.

Lack of sleep impairs cognition

For many years scientists have known that lack of sleep reduces the ability to sleep maintain attention. When sleep-deprived participants are asked to monitor a computer screen and press a button when a red dot appears — a fairly simple task — they are significantly more likely to be distracted. They don’t notice a bright red dot and don’t react within half a second. This lack of attention is due to a. attributed increase in sleep pressure and occur more frequently at points in the 24-hour daily cycle when the body is expected to be asleep.


Lack of sleep can seriously damage your body.

Research examining the effect of sleep derivation on more complex ways of thinking has shown rather mixed results. So my team and I tried to figure out how keeping people up all night affects different ways of thinking. We had participants perform various cognitive tasks in the evening before randomly asking them to either go home and sleep or stay up all night in the lab. The participants who were allowed to sleep came back in the morning and all did the cognitive tasks again.

In addition to impairments in attention, we also found that sleep deprivation caused it more placement errors. Placekeeping is a complex ability It involves performing a series of steps in order without skipping or repeating any of them. This would be akin to following a recipe for baking a cake from memory. You don’t want to forget to add eggs or accidentally add the salt twice.

Can caffeine replace sleep?

Next, we set out to test different ways to make up for sleep deprivation. What would you do if you didn’t get enough sleep last night? Many people would grab a cup of coffee or an energy drink. That was the result of a survey from 2022 over 90% of American adults surveyed Consume some form of caffeine daily. We wanted to find out if caffeine helps sustain alertness and prevent placement errors after sleep deprivation.

Interestingly, we found that caffeine improved the attention span of sleep-deprived participants so well that their performance was improved similar to people who have slept all night. Giving caffeine to people who had slept a full night also boosted their performance. So caffeine helped everyone stay alert, not just those who weren’t sleeping. In contrast to other studies, this result was not surprising similar insights.

However, we found that caffeine Placement errors have not been reduced either in the group that was sleep deprived or in the group that was sleeping. That said, if you’re sleep deprived, caffeine may help you stay awake and play Candy Crush, but it probably won’t help you pass your algebra exam.

Can naps make up for lost sleep?

Of course, caffeine is an artificial sleep substitute. We also concluded that sleep might be the best substitute for sleep. You’ve probably heard that before naps during the day can boost energy and performance, so it’s logical to assume that a late-night nap should have a similar effect.

We gave some of our participants the option to nap for either 30 or 60 minutes during a nightly deprivation period between 4am and 6am. This period roughly coincides with the nadir of alertness in the circadian cycle. Importantly, we noticed that participants were napping didn’t make it better performed better than those who stayed up all night on either the simple attention task or the more complex task of keeping space.

Thus, a middle-of-the-night nap after a night of general sleep deprivation had no discernible benefit on morning cognitive performance.

Get your Z’s

While caffeine can help you stay awake and feel more alert, it probably won’t help you with tasks that require complex thinking. And while napping can make you feel better on the nights you have to stay up, it probably won’t help your performance.

In short, adequate sleep is essential for your mind and brain and there simply is no substitute for sleep.

Kimberly Fennprofessor of psychology, Michigan State University

This article was republished by The conversation under a Creative Commons license. read this original article.

Tom Vazquez

Tom Vazquez is a USTimeToday U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Tom Vazquez joined USTimeToday in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with Tom Vazquez by emailing tomvazquez@ustimetoday.com.

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