Skipping Sleep Only to Catch Up Tomorrow Is Bad for Cognition

When our patients skip out on sleep and then try to catch up in the following days with longer bouts of sleep, it is tied to worse cognition–both in attention and creativity–in young adults. The more varied a person’s sleep patterns are, the worse their cognition declined across the week. In these instances, it makes learning and completing tasks quite difficult.

For this reason, we want to ensure our young adult patients are getting the appropriate amount of rest and screened for sleep apnea. Whether a person is completing a project, studying for school, or binge-watching their favorite show on Netflix, losing sleep and then trying to catch-up on sleep is never a good idea.

The Negative Effect of Skipping Sleep and Catching Up

Irregular sleep patterns have a negative effect on a person’s ability to focus for planning, making decisions, correcting errors, and remaining attentive while driving. Erratic sleep can also have a significant impact on creativity, meaning it is harder to think on your toes for various projects. Creativity is often described as a person’s ability to see a link between things that might seem unrelated at first, but then are able to create a link.

In addition to a lag in creativity, many young adults will experience a drop in their working memory, which enables them to hold memories for a short time while also completing a separate task. Sleep significantly improves creativity and memory, which is why it is important for us to ensure our patients are getting the sleep they need to complete daily tasks without issues.

Offer Treatment Options

If you notice your patients are experiencing signs of sleep deficiency or they mention how they crammed for an exam and lost sleep, but it’s ok because they will sleep this weekend, make sure you provide proper education. Inform those patients of the need for regular sleep every day and not just some days. Additionally, screen your patients for sleep apnea–there is a chance some patients might also be suffering from sleep apnea. When this is the case, no matter how much sleep they get, they will continue to struggle with their daily tasks. Be aware and look out for common symptoms so you can help your patients lead healthy, happy lives.

Let’s look deeper into cognition with young adults, so we can continue to provide the best care possible. What are ways you might look for signs and symptoms in your patients? Share your ideas and let’s see how we can continue to help!