Women who stay up past bedtime have are more likely to make harmful mistakes, a new study warns.
They found sleep loss adversely affected women’s working memory — which is responsible for reasoning, planning, learning and goal-directed behavior — more than men’s.
Furthermore, many women were unaware of their impaired memory, resulting in errors in decision-making and production loss.
It’s been proven that lack of shuteye can lead to judgement errors, but the current study, published in the Journal of Sleep Research, highlights gender differences in sleep deprivation.
Women who pulled all-nighters were unaware of their impaired memory
‘Our study suggests that particular attention should be paid to young women facing challenges in which they have to cope with both a high working memory load and a lack of sleep,’ said researcher Frida Rangtell, of Department of Neuroscience at Uppsala University.
In the study, Rangtell and her colleagues had 24 men and women perform a working memory task in the morning following either a full night of sleep or a night without sleep.
Then they were asked to indicate, on a continuous scale ranging from 0 to 10, how certain they were about the correctness of their digit input
They found women remembered fewer digits after sleep loss than after a night of sleep, and were more confident in their performance.
Men’s working performance and self-estimated performance were unaffected.
It’s unclear whether women’s memory improve throughout the course of the day.
‘It must be kept in mind that we have not tested whether the observed sex-dependent effects of sleep loss on working memory during morning hours would also occur at other time points of the day,’ Rangtell explained.
Previous studies have linked sleep deprivation to impaired memory.
A 2016 animal study published in eLife found that five hours of sleep deprivation lead to a loss of connectivity between neurons in a region of the brain associated with learning and memory.
Research have also shown women have an increased risk of developing chronic health conditions due to sleep loss.
A 2018 study from researchers at Sichuan University in China found women who work on the night shift — which can cause chronic sleep deprivation, according to the sleep foundation — have an increase of developing skin cancer, breast cancer and stomach cancer.
Working memory is needed to perform efficiently and effectively in academic, professional and social settings.
Researchers suggest that a drop in working memory due to sleep deprivation could be a risk factor for harmful accidents and mistakes.
However, researchers say the sex differences they observed in working memory should not be generalized to other mental and physical measures of how people are affected by sleep.