Sleep Deprived And Forgetful At The End Of A Long Vacation

Sleep deprived and forgetful at the end of a long vacation is par for the course for our youngsters. It won’t be long now before the kids are wending their weary way back to school. It is well established that we adults need our beauty sleep and it is Slow Wave Sleep, SWS, that we need to help us remember things.

Potkin and Bunney have observed that adolescents haven’t been studied very much in terms of the effects of sleep deprivation and have set out to remedy that with their study that was published last week in PLoS ONE (1).

They took 40 boys and girls between 10 and 14 and tested them at home (no music, TV or other distractions as we find when our kids are doing homework) and tested them with paired words sequences. They had to learn these and were then tested later. This was to test their semantic memory. This is part of the declarative memory, which we use to stuff facts away to spit them out later in term tests or trivia games.

There were two groups. One learned their paired words at 9 a.m. and were tested at 9 p.m. with no sleep during that 12-hour period. The other group learned their word pairs at 9 p.m. They were then tucked up to get a good night’s sleep before being tested at 9 a.m. the next day.

The results showed a clear improvement for the group that had a good night’s sleep. Their score was 21% better.

All of them were given a control working memory test in which they re-ordered letters and numbers in case there was a circadian rhythm factor. There wasn’t and sleep or no sleep made no difference to that working memory performance. Maybe you don’t ride a bicycle as well when you’re tired, but you don’t forget how to ride it.

We need to make sure our kids get 8 – 10 hours of sleep with as much SWS as possible before school days. Tricky in this electronic age. Reading a book under the cover with a flashlight doesn’t compare with the pull of interactive games on smartphones and tablets.

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