Young women with acute sleep loss face a high working memory load, finds a team of sleep scientists from Uppsala University.
In the current study from the Department of Neuroscience at Uppsala University, 24 young adults performed a working memory task in the morning following either a full night of sleep or a night of wakefulness. Half of the participants were females, and half were males.
The set-up of the working memory task was to learn and remember 8-digit sequences. Contrary to expectations, males' working memory performance remained unaffected by sleep loss. In contrast, females remembered fewer digits after sleep loss than after a night of sleep. Importantly, even though their performance was reduced, females were unaware of the drop in working performance when sleep-deprived. A lack of awareness of impaired mental performance could increase the risk of accidents and mistakes, which can be dangerous in many private and occupational situations, both for the sleep-deprived person as well as for others.