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October 2020
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Young Have Little to Reap on No Sleep

Study:  On Little Sleep, Older Folk Outperform Young in Brain Function

Lack of sleep affects brain function in young people, researchers conclude.

Lack of sleep affects brain function in young people, researchers conclude.

As the school year comes to a close and finals make their ignominious return to young people’s lives, millions of high schoolers will be burning the midnight oil this week, hoping to cram in as much information as possible to nail that chemistry quiz, that English exam, and that economics essay.  In the process, many of them will sacrifice sleep.

But no big hairy deal, right?  Who amongst us hasn’t spent a night cramming for a test?  And after all, they can always make up for their “sleep debt” over the weekend, because young people – who haven’t logged as many hours on their bodies or their minds as those more advanced in years – are resilient


Not so much, according to a study that was presented at the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies last week in Seattle, Wash.

While it’s true, young bodies are certainly more able than older bodies to handle endurance activities without resting, that’s not the case for the mind.  In fact, it’s older minds that have a greater ability to perform when operating on little sleep.

The researchers from the University of California-San Diego found that among 33 older adults (ages ranged from 59-82) and 27 younger adults (ages 19 to 39), the older adults were far better at performing memory-related tasks, verbal recognition tests and reacting to certain stimuli.

On it’s face, this may seem counterintuitive.  But when you stop and think about the amount of sleep a newborn baby has – which progressively grows shorter as he or she gets older – it makes more sense.  And as I wrote in a previous article on sleep, the brain doesn’t really stop growing until around the age of 25.  Nothing revitalizes the brain for repair and development than sleep.  Brain exercises are important, sure – which you can find online simply by searching “brain exercises” – but no exercise comes close to what sleep provides for improving the brain’s overall functioning prowess.

The most sage sleep advice with regards to studying came from my mother.  In my high school days of cramming for courses, my mom always advised that instead of cramming my head with information when I was dead-tired, it was far better that I go to bed early, and wake up early so that my mind would be refreshed.

Her advice epitomized the “Mother Knows Best mantra,” as I always wound up doing better on tests when my brain was rested, rather than riddled with worry and weariness from those dreaded all-nighters.

So if your son or daughter is tempted to burn the midnight oil for finals, that oil will burn far more efficiently in the wee-hours of the morning after a good night’s rest.


Related Posts

  1. Blood Pressures Rising Among Youth: Researchers Believe Lack of Sleep May Be to Blame
  2. Lack of Sleep a Nightmare for Blood Pressure
  3. Among Young Adults, No Middle Ground- Study: Even Moderately High BP Readings Increases Risk
  4. Why Sleep Needs the Goldilocks Treatment
  5. Sleeping Habits Linked to Diabetes Risk, According to Study

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