A study conducted by the Michigan State University revealed that sleep deprivation could hinder memory so much, that completing even the most basic tasks becomes a challenge. Lack of sleep is one of the primary reasons for human error in critical professions, starting from accidents in surgery and public transportation to operating nuclear power plants.

Professors and scientists from the MSU Sleep and Learning Lab urge us to take sleep deprivation seriously because their study has found out that nearly one-quarter of the people with procedure-heavy jobs are sleep deprived and have fallen asleep on the job. The results of this study are published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. The focus of this study was to analyze how sleep deprivation impacts one’s ability to complete complex tasks that involve directions and have multiple steps. Due to sleep deprivation, even the most basic errors, such as adding sugar twice to a recipe, occur frequently. These kinds of errors are not so serious. However, sleep deprivation was also at least partly to blame in most car accidents and even some of the world’s greatest catastrophes — like Chernobyl. The point of this study is to prove how critical sleep is to complete any task, no matter whether that task is simple or complex.

The Relationship between Sleep and Memory

The study revealed that every day 11 sponges are left inside of patients during surgery due to sleep deprivation. This means 4,000 mistakes in basic procedures are made every year due to lack of sleep. The results of the research show that sleep-deprived individuals shouldn’t perform complex tasks at all, because they are very prone to making a mistake. The risk of making a mistake further increases when these individuals were interrupted and had to remember where they were in the procedure before starting to work on their task again. Sleep-deprived individuals had a lot of troubles remembering where they were and how to continue in the sequence once interrupted. Therefore, the scientists concluded that the real cause of the problem is not sleep deprivation, but memory maintenance that is hindered due to lack of sleep.

When memory maintenance is impaired, it’s very difficult to pick up the task where you left off without any errors or missteps. People who have slept well can deal with everyday distractions (such as receiving a text message or simply answering a question) without any problems. However, since sleep-deprived individuals operate with reduced cognitive capacity, these distractions may be very harmful. Memory maintenance is also one of the reasons why students who pull all-nighters don’t retain any information for their exams. However, more worrisome are individuals working jobs who may put themselves and others at risk because of sleep deprivation. It’s something we mustn’t overlook.

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