Is The Lack of Sleep Making You Stupid?

By LeAnna J. Carey | Jun 21, 2012

Is The Lack of Sleep Making You Stupid?

Ralph Waldo Emerson said that, "life consists in what a man is thinking of all day."  Career and life success is not based on wishful thinking, but clear and focused long range thinking.  Most of us would agree that it can be a challenge to work through that afternoon brain fog with the same energy that jump started the day.  The key is getting enough sleep; however, the gap between understanding that there is nothing more restorative or rejuvenating than a full 7-8 hours of sleep and taking actions to get that sleep is where most of us find ourselves.  While it comes as no surprise that Americans are sleep deprived, it may be eye-opening that sleep does have an impact on memory, learning and productivity; in other words, thinking.

What are the benefits of a good nights sleep?

  • Everyday we take in a multitude of information, some of it important and meaningful, some not so meaningful.  When we have a good nights sleep, cognitive processing takes place, so that meaningful information is filtered. (1) 
  • According to Psychologist Giulio Tononi of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the brain 'resets' itself during sleep, so that the brain wakes up 'fresh' and ready to learn and process more information. 
  • Sleep has a direct affect on our health and well-being.  In an interview focused on the benefits of sleep, Susan Redline explains that, "the rise of our chronic health problems, like diabetes and obesity have happened in parallel with changes in the amount of sleep that we as a society are getting.
  • Sleep has a direct affect on your work productivity.  Entrepreneur Margaret Heffernan says that,  "Working overtime doesn't increase your output.  It makes you stupid...lose just one night's sleep and your cognitive capacity is roughly the same as being over the alcohol limit."
  • Getting the right amount of sleep impacts both declarative memory (what we know) and procedural memory (remembering how to do something).  "When we are sleep deprived, our focus, attention, and vigilance drift, making it more difficult to receive information. Without adequate sleep and rest, over-worked neurons can no longer function to coordinate information properly, and we lose our ability to access previously learned information." (2)

Looks like many successful people have figured out that sleep is instrumental in their success journey - it begins with thinking and thinking begins with sleeping.  What time are you going to bed tonight? 

(1) Cognitive Processing and Sleep: Implications for Enhancing Job Performance. James K. Wyatt and Richard R. Bootzin

(2)Ellenbogen JM, Payne JD, Stickgold R. The role of sleep in declarative memory consolidation: passive, permissive, active or none? Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2006 Dec;16(6):716-22. Epub 2006 Nov 7.


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