The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Associative Recognition Memory

A person's quality of life may be disrupted due to a variety of causes; Sleep deprivation is one important but underestimated contributing factor. (National Sleep Foundation, 2007). Sleep takes up over a third of our lives, but surprisingly many of us pay little attention to it. Sleep deprivation is a widespread issue in our modern, round-the-clock world. Due to social, economic, personal and various other responsibilities and issues. Your brain receives one-fifth of the blood that circulates through your body when you sleep, which is another reason why it is so important for it. Sleep Deprivation also leads to a change in the activity of neurotransmitters (dopamine). Additionally, your memory must be restructured throughout this phase so it can function properly.

Loss of sleep has negative effects on the brain, especially on cognitive functions that make use of the Hippocampus, a portion of the brain, (Robbert Havekes, 2018) Moreover, it speeds up the rate of forgetting at which episodic memory declines. As sleep safeguards new memories from competing information, forgetting rates are typically lower during sleep compared to wakefulness (Jenkins and Dallenbach, 1924). Wakefulness (day-time and night-time) in the long run has, therefore, multiple effects on our brain and its memory tasks. In the human empirical investigations on sleep deprivation and memory, subjects are frequently required to study new material in the afternoon or evening and then stay awake throughout the whole night (Maquet et al. 2003; Gais et al. 2006; Harrington et al. 2018). Theories range from anticipating a general deterioration in cognitive performance due to decreased stability in attentional networks to particular deficits in different cognitive domains or processes. (Roger Ratcliff and Hans P. A. Van Dongen T, 2018).

The hippocampus is essential for remembering the names of individuals as well as details like where you parked your car tonight, what is the location of your home, and even facts like what is your mobile phone number; The complex brain structure located deep within the temporal lobe is the hippocampus. It plays an essential role in memory tasks and learning by making use of Associative Recognition memory. The cognitive concept of association is the connection between ideas, occasions, or mental states. The capacity to recognize a previously encountered circumstance is referred to as recognition memory. Recognition memory only connects to declarative or implicitly acquired knowledge. According to Jennifer & Harrington, while the foundation items were intact, overnight sleep deprivation (vs. sleep) worsened associative memory loss in addition to item-level forgetting. Findings apply to affective associations, which may be more vulnerable to degradation with sleep loss. Previous research has examined the effects of sleep deprivation on central elements of emotional memory (Sterpenich et al. 2007; Vargas et al, 2019).

For an in-depth study of more components of cognitive processing, The Ratcliff Diffusion Model (DM) is brought into the picture. It is explained through 2 choices of decisions: evidence-based decisions and nondecisions. It allows direct comparison, such as between the quality of evidence and the quantity of evidence (Ratcliff, 1978). The Diffusion Model implies that data is continually gathered up until one of two thresholds is reached. Response time distributions from a large number of choice task trials are utilised in the research to estimate a set of parameters representing various mental processes. Diffusion model studies have grown in popularity during the past several years across a variety of psychology subfields. Researchers use this model of diffusion to predict vulnerability to sleep deprivation. The Drift Rate is an additional piece of information utilised in the decision-making process to research the effects of sleep deprivation. The quality of the information collected from the stimulus determines the pace of information accumulation, which is known as the Drift Rate (v). Using a diffusion model analysis, Ratcliff and Van Dongen (2009) investigated the impact of sleep deprivation on performance in a numerosity discrimination test; they discovered a decrease in drift rates.

Recent research suggests that while memory encoding and retrieval appear to be generally unaffected by sleep deprivation, memory task performance losses during sleep deprivation are likely to be caused by deficits in Attentional Processing and memory maintenance. (Rakitin, Tucker, Basner, & Stern, 2012; Wee, Asplund, & Chee, 2013). It has long been understood that memory and attention work together. The upper and lower limits of attentional capacity are thought to vary with arousal state, with sleep deprivation making it harder to maintain performance and effort. When strongly motivated, sleepy participants can function at normal levels, but this can eventually lead to attentional gaps such as the pressure to fall asleep and the struggle to stay awake for the battle for attention (Eric Chern-Pin Chua, 2017).

Adults throughout the world reported varying degrees of contentment with their sleep in 2020, with two-thirds of Indians reporting high levels of satisfaction compared to fewer than one-third of Japanese respondents. By nation, this statistic displays the proportion of individuals who were either completely or moderately satisfied with their sleep in 2020 (Statista, 2021).

More broadly, our findings provide novel insights into the cognitive impairments caused by insufficient sleep, a problem that is particularly critical in light of the arguably epidemic levels of chronic sleep deprivation that are present worldwide (Bonnet and Arand 1995; Stranges et al. 2012; Liu et al. 2016). Another statistic shows the proportion of individuals in particular nations who, as of 2019, have certain lifestyle factors that affect their sleep. 54 percent of respondents said that stress or anxiety had an impact on their ability to sleep.

The Programmatic Themes of Ethics and Emotional Intelligence are relevant to this study. Some cultures have been taught that you don't need a lot of sleep to get through each day. Growing up, I recall hearing that the human body could operate normally after just five hours of sleep and that you should be up working and engaging in constructive activities to achieve your goals. But that comes with emotional intelligence; you need to be aware of how your body specifically feels and how much you can handle. Nevertheless, you are just hurting yourself. You cannot base your physical well-being and quality of life on what other people think. The results of the study can be helpful to people in their own lives by letting them know that putting your health last and not getting enough sleep simply leads to further self-harm and brain damage.



Roger, R. and Hans, D. (2018). The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Item and Associative Recognition Memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology

Ashton, Jennifer, Harrington, Marcus Oliver, Langthorne, Diane et al. (2020). A repository copy of Sleep Deprivation Induces Fragmented Memory Loss. University of York

Robbert, H. (2018). Sleep deprivation and memory problems. TEDxDenHelder

Marvin, C and Nicholas, B. (2007). Interactions between attention and memory. Current Opinion in Neurobiology


This Blog on Psychology: The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Associative Recognition Memory, has been contributed by Jinansha Badjatiya. Jinansha is currently pursuing her B.A. Hons. in Psychology from the Indian Institute of Psychology and Research (IIPR), Bangalore. She loves understanding and supporting people and animals who need help and chooses to work in the field of psychology through her intrinsic motivation. By applying her studies to her experiential learning, research work in NLP makes her more self-aware. She acknowledges the philosophical perspective of life and believes that psychology has a lot to do with philosophy. She aspires to be an Animal Assistant Therapist. She is part of the Global Internship Research Program (GIRP). GIRP is an IJNGP initiative to encourage young adults across our globe to showcase their research skills in psychology and to present it in creative content expression.