It is known that sleep facilitates the formation of long-term memory in humans. In a new study, researchers from Uppsala University, Sweden, now show that sleep does not only help form long-term memory but also ensures access to it during times of cognitive stress.
During sleep newly learned information is transferred from short-term to long-term memory stores in humans. In the study published in the journal SLEEP, finds that sleep loss paired with acute stress negatively affects important cognitive functions.
“On the basis of our study findings, we have two important take home messages, ” says Jonathan Cedernaes, researcher at the Department of Neuroscience, Uppsala University, “First, even though losing half a night of sleep may not impair memory functions under baseline conditions, the addition of acute cognitive stress may be enough to lead to significant impairments, which can possibly be detrimental in real-world scenarios. Second, interventions such as delaying school start times and greater use of flexible work schedules, that increase available snooze time for those who are on habitual short sleep, may improve their academic and occupational performance by ensuring optimal access to memories under stressful conditions”.
“An important next step will be to investigate how chronic sleep loss and or more chronic stress may interact to impair the ability to retrieve memories that are consolidated during sleep”, says Jonathan Cedernaes.