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Sleeplessness Impairs Memory 191

Anne Marie writes: "According to a new study on the interaction between memory and lack of sleep has yielded tantalizing results: not only is sleep necessary for the chemistry of laying down memories, but periods of extra sleep cannot "make up" for lost sleep. The implications for the IT industry where sleeplessness is a constant reality of employment are manifest." By morning, I will probably have no idea I ever posted this.
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Sleeplessness Impairs Memory

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  • by niteshad ( 118441 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2000 @10:24PM (#608010) Homepage

    When I was entering college (1993), my father advised me to keep up with my daily sleep, since "you can't regain the sleep that you lose." His college education was in biology and human physiology, back in the late 1960's, so the information is potentially that old. I suspect that medical researcher's have known something about this phenomenon for years, and that this is just a continution or follow up study.

    Hopefully though, people, especially academia and the technology fields will start taking this seriously, and try to accomodate the fact that we need adequate sleep (and a little recreation) to function at optimum levels of congnition and mental efficiency.

  • there are old programmers and bold programmers, but there are no old bold programmers...
  • i will save this in depth, and inlighting analysis next to the several reports that state that suguar has no effects on human chemistry. *grin*
  • If you read carefully, you'll notice the various studies mentioned are actually on skills.

    Stickgold only suggested that it may affect all
    types of memory.

    Rote learning, learning concepts and learning hand-eye coordination skills are different things.

    What I find personally is that taking short naps help when learning concepts- you understand better. Whereas for rote learning - stuff I just memorize but don't have to link and understand, sleep doesn't really help much, and in fact I better make sure I've got the stuff solidly memorized before sleeping - if not I'll probably forget half of it.

    When learning motor skills, studies have already shown that participants will reach a plateau and stop improving, only after participants slept then only they could improve further to another plateau.

  • By morning, I will probably have no idea I ever posted this.

    That explains all of the freakin' re-posts of Slashdot stories. I figured there was a logical explanation outside of laziness. There you have it.

    The truth is out there, Scully.

  • Well I can speek for myself.
    A few years ago I was working mostly at night (sometimes shifting for day) and it was very difficult to sleep 8 hours every day. I was usualy sleeping 5 or 6-hours. That lasted for 2 years.
    In the end I got very tired ("walking zombie" is a better term) and quit that job.
    But things had not ended here.
    First: it was nearly imposible for me to get to bed before midnight. I took me 6 or more month to get over this.
    Second: It's easy even now (after 3 years) to not sleep at night. Sleep doesn't come easy even if I'm very tired. You know the mind keeps rolling... ;)

    And finnaly I experience some kind off long term memory loss (I think).
    So it's true: Oversleep won't help you with the lost sleep.
  • My Mum told me this 45 years ago.

    I was going to apply for a grant to do blindingly obvious research, but I forgot. My thesis was to have been called "Starvation and eventual surcease in the food-deprived."
  • No one's ever heard of senior citizens who are hackers or programmers, right?

    Hmmm, let's say your typical senior citizen it about 70, and started her professional life at about 20... that'd be in 1950. IIRC the CS job market wasn't quite as big in 1950 as it is today ;).
    Seriously, though, it remains to be seen whether the current generation of programmers (that's uh, me too) is coding itself into an early grave. Too bad we can't decouple our big brains from our scrawny bodies. I know that in another few years of sitting my (increasingly fat) ass in front of a CRT all day and all night and things are gonna start getting pretty ugly round here...

    If you're not wasted, the day is.

  • Does anybody else find it amusing that Ektanoor, on very little sleep, writes with the fractured syntax of an 8th grader while claiming he is completely unaffected?

    I noticed that. Most of his posts display similarly disjointed grammar. It appears that his irregular sleeping pattern is seriously degrading his ability to communicate effectively. =P

    As for me, I'm worthless without my beauty rest. When I go to bed early I wake up more naturally the next morning, and I feel wonderful for the whole day. When I (as is more usual) go to bed late (11:00pm, midnight, etc.), I generally feel slow and groggy the next day. I especially noticed this when I was bartending, and I had similar experiences while in school (those late-night or all-night projects :/ ).

    There will be exceptions to every study. Excpetions do not, however, negate the results of a study. Perhaps our poor gramatically-challenged Ektanoor is such an exception. Such a situation would not mean that the study is pure crap, though, as our thoughtful and forthright Ektanoor so boldly asserts. From both personal experience and observations of people I work with, I can testify to the veracity of the study. But then, I've always been a 'normal' person, physiologically.


  • It helps to have some real, non-anecdotal data to back up your claims.

    A lot of people think lots of things are obvious to them. Some of these things have already been proven wrong. Others haven't been tested. If we always just went with what we thought was obvious we'd end up making a really huge number of mistakes and fucking up every time we had to make a decision based on: physics, biology, psychology...

    Just because your mom said it doesn't make it obvious or even true; just because you really think so doesn't make it obvious or even true. And even when something obvious gets tested and results are as expected, real scientific work is getting done - for example, when it establishes basic methods to use in making studies for comparison with that "root" study.

    In short, you have no idea what you're talking about. Thank you, come again.
  • Truck drivers having regulated sleep as a safety issue. Out of all the industries known for sleeplessness, I'd think a regulation for medical workers would make much more sense than for IT workers ever would.
  • Thanks man! Good post. I was going by a different personal rule of thumb: IF I lived to be 75 years of age and IF slept 8 hours a day then 25 years of my lifetime were wasted in dreamland. Lifespan is too short. Play hard and set yourself a goal for retirement at 50 instead of 65. :)

  • You know, it's almost 6:00 AM here, and I was just wondering if I should get a few hours of sleep instead of pulling yet another all-nighter and forcing myself to stay awake until later tonight. I think I just made my decision.
  • why not read the study and figure out what it's saying before you decide on poor anecdotal evidence that the whole thing is bullshit?

    fact is that you might be right, that no matter how much you lack sleep you still know your name. but that doesn't mean that there aren't memory effects, just that the memory effects aren't so drastic that they make you forget your name. these things you list do not exhaust memory, and moreover you might be surprised if you ran a study looking at them...

    there wouldn't really be a research literature on this kind of thing if it was that easy.
  • story posted.... 01:58AM it is now almost 6:00 AM and there are almost a hundred comments.... looks like a healthy nights sleep at slashdot to me.... ::disclaimer:: i work 3rd shift, and dont always sleep during the day, or afternoon for that matter, and i may have a highly distorted view of reality
  • I think the point is that employees aren't really positioned to advocate for themselves powerfully. Official regulations can bring employers into line as far as unreasonable demands on the sleep schedules of people who do not feel that sleep deprivation is beneficial. And certainly as a consumer of medical care I hope the people working on me get the benefit of governmental intervention. This does not mean that the SWAT team is going to bust in on you if you decide not to sleep for a really long time.

    In other words, you might see this as sinister governmental intervention, but very few of us have the power to hold down all of our interests. Sometimes governmental "meddling" is one of the best ways of ensuring that people don't get screwed over.

    Take, for example, the policy that cuts into your ability to buy and own human slaves. Damn the government for that, right?
  • i can't remember the last time i slept

  • Actually, all the presidents won the election

  • I always check Slashdot right before settling down to study...talk about demotivitating...
  • The article is talking about your ability to remember info, not to continue thinking. Assuming you already know how to code, caffeine acts as a stimulant and keeps you from feeling drowsy. Now, I wouldn't pick up "Teach yourself x in y days" and short myself on sleep, assuming the article is correct.
  • by MorseKode ( 223376 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2000 @10:25PM (#608030)
    My parents told me a zillion times to go sleep earlier to feel better next day... guess i just had to read it once in slashdot to believe it.
    Local time: 4:25am.
    Going down for sleep NOW!
  • Note that the study gave 2 days of rest between the first test / learning period and the 2nd period. This is drastically different from the usual 5-10 hours between stopping cramming and writing the exam.

    I know that after an exam I lose much of the material I studied the night before.

    Also note that this wasn't raw memorization, it was a learned activity, so we might get different results if the subjects had to memorize arbitrary, random etc. pieces of information.

  • I guess that's why so much software is like the zombies that write it. At least coders will forget the mess they created though.

    It's the user that gets blessed with the total recall.

  • I know a dot-com millionare - he sold his company to IBM just in time :)

    His motto for life: "Sleep is for the weak". It seemed to work pretty well for him.....
  • Heh.. people seriously don't know how to just take a joke. If I was really gonna become critical I would of simply said the US military has done very long studies, Using psych units to prove that it effects your memory over long periods of time. For instance if you dont sleep 96+ hours your memory will be effected and this is not because you can't remember its because you aren't thinking about retaining anything. You are really thinking about when you're gonna get to sleep. Needless to say errors will be made etc.

    Anyone whos ever been to war or in a war simulation (ie: next door neighbor playing large quantities of loud music) knows that the longer you play that loud music, keeping your enemey awake; the quicker he gives in.

    Oh well, I guess the bait was set and he bit =)
  • Yep, let's get the government in here. They were the "pioneers" of the 5-hour work day in the 1930's on the Tennessee Valley Authority projects. Yep, I want to live in a company cottage and be told when I have to go to bed as well. This idea takes the idea of the "nanny state" to another level and unfortunately won't solve the problem of sleeplessness by itself. Sleep is hard to come by unless it is also balanced with a healthy diet and a decent exercise regimen.

    Let's leave the feds to the jobs that they were restricted to in the U.S. Constitution.

  • This is a good reason why I do what I do the way I do it. Why does my employer (or anybody, actually) really need to get ahold of me at 7AM or 11PM no matter where I am? Answer: They don't. All this "business busyness" is really just a sham. The world won't go to hell in a handcart if someone doesn't get the latest information not now, but right now.

    I also refuse to let my work intrude into my private life. There's work, and then there's life. I don't hate my job, I just love my hobbies/free time. I can't see why anyone would think that working on Saturday is better than going to an SCA event, or reading a book, or writing a story, or...or...or...

    Thirdly, I have a metabolic weirdness (related to a neurological disorder) that causes me to physically need 9-12 h of sleep a night. If sleep is for the weak, then I'm a weakling. I might not (ever) be a rich weakling, but I'm a well-rested, youthful weakling. (All those people I knew from high school who went into high-paying, high-pressure, long-hours jobs now look 10 years older than me! Sometimes laziness pays--especially if you're vain. I really don't mind being asked which high school I go to.)

    And I'll be a well-rested, youthful weakling long after all those dot-commie "sleep is for the weak" guys have become prematurely-aged, fabulously wealthy worm food.

    Me, personally, I druther be po' than underslept. My memory's bad enough without any help.

    The next person whose cell phone plays shxtty beepy music at me is going to find themselves with a cell phone with a Doc Marten faceplate.
  • Being a good example of an "insomniac", I sleep weird hours, worry my friends, and rarely get a good night's sleep.

    What I found out my first year of university (3 years ago) is that if I study for an exam until the early morning and then sleep a few hours, I will actually lose most of the information I learned.

    Of course, it all depends on how much you already know before you start "cramming" the night before. Some of my classes are so boring that I used to "barf" the exam, meaning I'd hold as much information in my short-term memory that I could and then (brain) "barf" it on the exam page and leave it there. It is not uncommon for me to forget the entire exam within 24 hours after writing it (sleeping right after the exam probably doesn't help either).

    Since then, I've been trying to "time" my sleeping hours (which I have a little bit of control over when I'm a bit over-tired) so that I wake up 16-20 hours before the END of an exam. That way I'll study, write the exam and pass out at exactly the right times.

    This has a few risks however. Timing multiple exams is difficult, especially if they occur at the same time on successive days. I usually end up having less time to study for the second exam. This technique is also useless if you are writing two exams on one day (which hasn't happened to me yet, luckily).

    Besides memory loss, there are a few other issues along with that. If I stay awake and sleep less than 2 hours, I tend to wake up more groggy than if I had never slept at all. So now I just stay up and crash when I get home.

    Also, now that exam time is coming up I have one recommendation about caffiene. If you are going to consume large amounts of caffiene during exams, slowly ramp up your consumption. If you consume a lot of it early on, you will begin to "burn out" a lot quicker and be useless for later exams. However, if you are a regular caffiene (ab)user, this probably won't apply to you.

    As a side note, I used to use caffiene to control my sleeping patterns in first year, which were chaotic at best). I probably averaged about 3-4 hours a night. Since then my short-term memory has gone to shit. YMMV.

    If you ask me, I'd say that sleeping is the most important thing you can do to prepare for studying. If you can get it, DO IT.

    Good luck during exams!


    PS> Did I mention I'm in engineering? :)

  • A better idea would be to require managers that set impossible dealines to sleep as little as the people that have to meet the deadlines. --Eric
  • Tyler Durden didn't sleep, and he turned out fine! He made a great movie.
  • it is Geek Code [geekcode.com]

  • due to the university's regulations, high doses of caffiene can't be tested on people

    If you ever need a volunateer for an "after school project", give me a call. I will glady intake massive amounts of caffiene for the ahem "good of science"

  • You are standing on the west side of a small white house. There is a mailbox here.

    open mailbox

  • There is a theory about memory that the things you learn has to be repeated in your brain in order to 'stick'. Think about it, you learn a new name for a person and immediately goes on talking, or you learn the name and has some a few seconds doing nothing. In the first case a lot of us forget the (damned) name.

    There is also a theory that we're dreaming all the time, even when we're awake. The brain is constantly doing random assoications and this helps refreshing memory. But at daytime, when a lot is happening and we're conscious, most of this random activity gets quickly depressed. (but sometimes we daydream, or we suddenly thinks about something totally unrelated to what we're doing at the moment.)

    Combaining these two theories we come to my point. In sleep very little is disturbing the brain, which is then free to do it's random(?) memory refreshing thing.

    And if this is correct, then that is why lack of sleep is disruptive for memory.

  • So... you present an alternate explanation for the results: the disturbance in the sleep patterns of those individuals asked not to sleep after exposure to the patterns, rather than the lack of sleep suffered by said individuals, caused the lack of learning.

    That's an interesting hypothesis, perhaps one which could afford some study. I don't think it's so obvious as to make the previous study 'obviously biased'; frankly, based on what other knowledge I have about the functions served by sleep, I'm inclined towards skepticism.

    Nonetheless, you might do well to find a grad student looking for a thesis project and suggest it, after doing some research to find out if this subject has been addressed previously.

    And btw, I didn't claim to be smarter. I was trying to imply that you can't afford the loss of learning that you do suffer due to your sleep habits any more than I can.
  • I guess this explains why there have been so many reposted articles lately.
  • now such wonderful sites as Thinkgeek [thinkgeek.com] will go out of business due to lack of sales of caffeine...
  • by Bongo ( 13261 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2000 @03:32AM (#608047)

    I read about "daily cycles" of sleep, and being someone who habitually feels crap in the morning, decided to try it. I found it seems to work.

    Basically, the body goes into a sleep mode about 10pm. This mode lasts until about 2am. During this period, the body is most relaxed and quiet. After it starts waking up, sleep is more shallow.

    I've usually liked staying up late to do mental stuff/work, because I'd feel more focussed and relaxed, esp. around 1am, but would feel awful in the morning. I see now that the 'late-night-focus' was because my body was in 'deep-relaxation' mode, ie. the time when it was most adapted for deep-sleep. By morning, I'd not only missed the deepest relaxation sleep period, but would still be in bed when the body was passing from light-awake (2am-6am) to medium-awake (6am to 10am). So I'd be trying to wake up at 7 -- a few hours after my body's most sharply-awake period had already passed.

    I've started experimented with going to bed at 10, and found I wake up naturally and very refreshed and clear at 4.30-5am (much more refreshed than I do at 6.30).

    So instead of cramming a few late night work hours, there's the alternative of taking an early night and working from 5-7am, straight after having had the deepest sleep possible.

    Anyway, I must sound really "sad" advocating 10pm bed time... and for many it's just not possible, but for those who are interested, see Chopra [amazon.com].

    PS. I once stayed up 56 hours for work... at least I think it was work... can I remember?

  • i stayed up for 72 hours once and ended up sleeping after that for 20-21. try telling my body that extra sleep doesn't make up for missed sleep, eh?

  • The solution is cats. I have two of those little bastards and I haven't needed an alarm clock for years. Every morning they wake me up without exception at 6 AM to be fed.

    By the way, I do have an auction going on Ebay right now if anyone wants them.
  • We'll see this story again as the slahdot editors forgot that it had just been posted.

    Just a little ribbing... nothing to serious.

  • I can't remember exactly, but I thought I saw this story two weeks ago, and I seem to remember posting this exact same response, but I'm not quite sure.
  • you my friend need sleep
  • Is there a connected report that says anything about similar effects in shift worker who get 8 hours sleep, just not during the night?

    I ask because resource shortages are going to push two and three 8-hour shifts onto more and more companies trying to compete in the marketplace and I would be interested to see if this is likely to have a broad detrimental effect on society...

  • It seems that in our hyperactive I-need-it-yesturday society that everyone's more busy than ever before and working longer. Cell phones, pagers, and PDAs keep us all connected on the go. IPOs pop up every day, and new ways of tracking them 24/7 are innovated all the time. Then we drive home to greet the computer for more infodiving and work. Yet have we actually asked ourselves what the consequences of all this technology is?

    Lack of sleep sometimes comes from those who can't "turn their brain off" or just can't drop everything and go to sleep. Even worse, there are those who won't let themselves obtain more than 7 hours of sleep. (Oddly enough, they don't care as much about the level of caffeine or nicotine in their blood.)

    So who's to blame? Ourselves? Of course not, it's society's fault for having larger expectations in this day and age. But how did society get this way? Surely the God of Civilization didn't whisk his/her magic wand and Poof! we're all overworked and underslept.

    Yet we don't really see how detrimental these little details are until we find a study on it. We just figure we can shave off minutes of sleep to achieve just a bit more productivity. Then we go back to replying to posts about the oxymoronic Microsoft Usability Labs.

    Basically, we want to change society but without changing ourselves.

    Enough ranting, I just think that we to take two minutes away from productivity and take a look at how we are in the mirror. Are we really taking care of ourselves, or are we working ourselves into an early grave? Is what we do necessary, or is it really expendible? As we find out here, I guess sleep isn't as expendible as we might have thought. Perhaps there's more to it, but I'll find out later.

    I need to go to sleep.
  • I worked a contract 2 years ago that allowed me complete control over my schedule. By the end of the year, I had adopted the same policy of no alarm clock to wake up with. In addition, I worked as long as I felt productive. Then I went off and distracted my brain with some mild entertainment, then when I was tired, I went to sleep. Over the course of about a month, my schedule stabilized into about 10 hours of sleep, about 12-14 of productive work with a couple of 1 hour breaks for meals, followed by about 4-6 hours of diversion. Basically, 30 hour days. I didn't take a day off for the last 3 months, and had been doing only 1 "weekend" day after every 5 days for the months before that.

    I was more productive and better rested than I think I have ever felt before or since. I assume everyone has a different rhythm their body would shift to if allowed, I am curious if anyone else has done this, and what their experience was like.


  • by be-fan ( 61476 )
    They needed a study to figure this out? Everyday I hear totally insane studies like, "smoking linked to cancer," and "absentee fathers lead to criminal children," etc. You'd think they'd have a better place to spend their research dollars.
  • It's not obvious that you've contradicted the research. I suppose that one could look up all the references and check, but it would be helpful if you would have provided a synopsis of your argument. As it stands, it's not clear that any of the papers you sited refute the claim that the first night of sleep is necessary to learn improvements in procedural memory from a days practice.

    In general, with research that is experimental and has little theoretical foundation, unless you duplicate the experiment completely, it's possible that you would have results that might seem contradictory. Without a good theory, any small variation in the inputs could effect the output of the experiment, and with something as complicated as the human brain, there are often many inputs.

  • You know,as an Englishman of irreputable history in the 'memory destroying activity dept', i have (had) a great awareness of the lack of sleep theories touted by social policy influencing groups. and i think that it is a scam sir! What a load of.....poopoo! Obviously the powers at be would love for us all to stay longer in bed. Less cost, you see. Less trouble. All the best things are acheived in the state of sleeplessness; art, music, philosophies and anything that is really important... The less you sleep, the more you live. listen, that old bitch Thatcher only had four hours of sleep a night, but you can bet her memory was as good as the saint peter.
  • OH MY GOD! That is the best metaphorical description of modern politics I've ever, ever heard. Good for you.


  • and you can throw them against the wall like an alarm clock too....
  • New guidelines must be set for how much IT workers can be forced to work without sleep.

    This is absolute garbage. The government is not your mother. It is not the government's responsibility to tell you when to go to bed. What next, a Federal Ass-wiping Committee?

    The fact is, kids, if you don't like what you're doing, and if you don't like how your current employer is treating you, do something radical: QUIT!

    That's right! Quit your job!

    You can quit your crappy job and maybe even get a new one! Look at your legs -- there's no chains! Nobody is forcing you to work those hours. Don't like your schedule? Quit!

    Now sure, you've got those bills to pay, but do you really NEED a Mercedes? Rather, think about it this way: is your Ikea furniture worth dying at 40? Is your snazzy condo worth a heart attack?

    Sell your junk, quit your job, and go find an occupation that won't kill you.

    And for those of you that don't, that continue to work 80 hours a week for $75K a year, please stop your whining.

    Those of us who are trying to enjoy our brief little lives are really tired of your bitching.

  • Of course this information is old. No wait, I see it now. New headlines in science magazines-- "New study shows that the sky is actually blue!"

    What an interesting world we live in.

  • I agree, I worked the graveyard shift (2130-0600) right out of college and the only way I felt OK was to get up around 2000 at night and pretend it was morning.

    One big positive was I could party all night with no problem on the weekends. :)

  • I find that if I work out for 30 minutes during the day that I can fall asleep without a problem, sleep for six to eight hours, and wake up without an alarm clock. Something about being active during the day helps you sleep, I think. (Of course, having the eight kilo cat jump on you at 6am doesn't hurt either. He's my backup system. Waking up is a process, not a product.)
  • by Trickster Coyote ( 34740 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2000 @10:41PM (#608065) Homepage
    By morning, I will probably have no idea I ever posted this.

    Hah. So that's why stories sometimes get posted twice to /.

    Trickster Coyote
    Reality is but a dream
  • The link between sleeplessness and memory loss has always been intuitively known for eons. We've also known for quite some time that sleeplessness takes a toll on the workforce.

    Yeah, but we forgot.


  • A close colleague of mine is a behavioural scientist and doctoral neurologist. He puts forth an interesting theory, which was the basis of his doctorate: much like dietary specialists recommend a series of small meals when hungry throughout a day, is it possible that small amounts of sleep would bring about a similarly positive response in our physiology? Through his findings at Johns Hopkins (I will post the link to the research beneath this post if I can dig it up), it would appear the answer is a resounding YES. Napping when tired is the best way to conserve strength, be well rest, INCREASE memory "upload" and allow for a more positive control over emotions. Speaking of which, I'm gonna catch some zzzzz.

    1. P 2 P___H U M O R [mikegallay.com]
  • I try to get at least 10 hours of sleep per day. It makes me far more productive than those annoying workaholic fools who BRAG that they get 5 hours sleep per night.
  • by jpatokal ( 96361 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2000 @10:43PM (#608071) Homepage
    Where do i sign up?

    For lack of sex, sleep, caffeine and Mexican food? No thanks, I'll join the control group instead...


  • (What is it with the computer industry and impossible deadlines anyway?)
    More often than not the person setting the deadline has absolutely no idea what they've asked for. In one job the managing director asked for one object in a 3D rendered video to be (re?)moved. The day before it was due. It took three PCs two weeks to render. ("Yeah, but it's just a little change").
  • Yeah, and I'm sure that corporations will institute such changes out of pure altruism...
  • I've commited a number of the sins mentioned in the article and for the most part I find the results agreeable. On a normal night I get less sleep than most people, I'm in bed a little after midnight but I awake right around 5 am. This is normal for me though, I don't use an alarm clock to wake.

    I perform well with that amount of sleep, I perform less well when I sleep more (I get headaches when I sleep longer). If I start cutting into my sleep I've noticed a progressive degradation of skills.

    I kind of kept records the last time I took myself out to the "brutal" level of sleep depravation. Due to circumstances I ended up working 60 hours straight. The first 24 hours were not too bad, I do that from time to time and have no apparent ill-effects.

    Over the next 24 hours I became progressively more single-minded in what I was doing. Little distractions like the phone or even the paperboy dropping off the paper would shock me out of the little world that had entranced me.

    The last 12 hours were interesting. Part of the work I was doing involved addition and subtraction of numbers out to four decimal places and looking for trends. Normally I can do this in my head quickly and accurately. I had to dust off the calculator and CAREFULLY enter data. I no longer had enough of an attention span to keep track of addition and subtraction, much less look for trends in reams of data.

    After having somebody pick me up and drive me into work for a meeting (there was no way I'd have been able to drive the 12 miles to work safely, I wouldn't have fallen asleep I don't think, I was almost wired at that point, but I had no concentration at all) I realized I could remember almost none of the conculsions I came to, fortunately I anticipated this and scribbled everything down on a note pad.

    Looking over the data later after getting some sleep was a bit shocking, the work looked alien. I knew the work was mine. I only had the fuzziest recollection of doing it.

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2000 @04:47AM (#608081) Homepage Journal
    I had a buddy who decided that rather than getting some boring work study job in the library, it'd be easier to sign up in a long term research study in the food and nutrition department.

    They wanted complete control over his input and output, so they gave him a gym bag with thermoses full of a special liquid nutritional concentrate which for the year became his sole source of sustenance. He also had latrine containers into which he had to put all his piss and shit. We'd all go out for Chinese and he'd be slurping his nutritional goo.

    Every two weeks he'd go to the lab and get to eat something different -- two pounds of American cheese. There was a catch to this treat -- it was radioactive.

  • I would say one may suffer.
    To add some fire to the discussion. Once I heard about one guy, in St. Peterburg if I'm not mistaken, who suffered from acute form of insomny. You know what he did to pass the sleepless nights? Read the Big Soviet Encyclopedia (there is also the Small SE). Up to the level he could cite any page from it in any way and form. Yes, this may not be exactly the memory process related to learning (this is more "photo" memory) but still it is indirectly related to it.

    So I would be more careful doing such studies...
  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2000 @05:01AM (#608089) Homepage Journal
    Let me compliment you on a unusually good post.

    I personally don't have access to my sources, since I've been out of school now for over fifteen years, but back then I did some literature research into this very subject too.

    I remember a study which is very suggestive, which probably you could find if you have access to a good library. The study purported to show that the length of time between an event and the next REM cycle affected your ability to recall it accurately. If you were sleep deprived, you would remember things that occurred just before you got to sleep pretty much as well as you would during a normal cycle. Things that happened a long time before you got to sleep would not be recalled well or at all. Thus if you (like I used to when I was young) work for thirty or forty hours straight, you would remember the last shift pretty much as well as a normal shift, but the first shift would be recalled poorly. This pretty much also fits with my personal experience.

    Another way to look at this is that time to REM sleep is the limiting factor in long term recall.

    This would jibe pretty well with the study of medical residents. Medical residents who worked long shifts would learn pretty much the same as those that worked short shifts, just that most of the learning that occurred would be from the end of the shift. The beginning of the shift is for the benefit of the hospital, not the resident.

  • by Pseudonymus Bosch ( 3479 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2000 @05:15AM (#608090) Homepage
    No one's ever heard of senior citizens who are hackers or programmers, right?

    Charles Babbage?
  • by Turnbull ( 7509 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2000 @05:18AM (#608091)
    If you read the article, the research was on procedural memory (such as learning a new juggling pattern, or getting better at Tetris), and had nothing to do with declarative memory (such as remembering what the capital of Algeria is), or episodic memory (such as remembering that you already posted a particular Slashdot story 2 weeks ago). I see from most of the comments that people are implicitly assuming that we're talking about declarative memory. So you can go on sleep-depriving yourselves without worrying about forgetting important facts (as far as this particular research is concerned).
  • by Ektanoor ( 9949 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2000 @10:51PM (#608095) Journal
    The article is pure junk. The described experiment looks much like an amateur doctor trying to check his own stereotypes on how people should live instead of a real scientific analysis, where time frames vary, people are set into several working scenarios and different rythms of work/sleep are set.

    Right now I'm in the second day at work. Slept 4 hours. And feel ok except that is a bit cold (temperatures drastically dropped here). Probably I'll remain in the place for one or two days more. Having sleeping cycles of half-four hours between worktimes of 4-15 hours. I didn't forget anything I should do, what I read yesterday or what I did and should do.

    And for nearly 10 years I have never seen such things as the crap written in these news...

    The only moment when memory does really start to suffer is when you get three-four days without taking a nap and you worked like hell. And, after sleeping, I don't see that I really forgot about anything noticeable. I even remember some details I usually wouldn't note in a normal rythm.

    I had rythms on sleeping 2 hours on full 20 hour worktimes for more than a week. The limit of sleepless I reached - 5 days. I also slept two days in a row. And don't see where this guy is making the point.

    One thing I'm sure. Each person has his clock. A bioclock that says "you can stay N hours awake, but after that sleep X hours". That's a steel rule. However this clock ranges from people sleeping 3-4 hours to others taking 12-13 hour snaps. These last ones are not lazy. Their rythms demand such long hours of sleep.

    Some others, like me, have nearly irregular sleep clocks. One thing I know is that if the brain says "time for a good snap" then better to do it. Besides I and two guys here are typical night owls. I only feel my good working rythm at night, while in the morning or evening I feel sleepy quite frequently. Even if I slept the whole night. Day before yesterday I did so. Came to work and also slept the whole morning. And the next night was a run down to 6 in the morning...

    Besides, there are people that suffer a rythm very similar to "Napoleon's syndrome". They can only sleep in very short moments and do not have a fixed sleeping rythm at all.

    In front of this, the article is tantalizing for its nonsense...
  • well, as I understand it, science has recently discovered that our brain's memory functions are much more complex than first thought. not only does it sort memories by cross referencing them [which is what intelligence is all about], but it also stores items it deems relevant in specific areas that seem to be getting the best oxygen and nutrient supply. Sort of a semi-permanent OS upgrade, I guess.
    What the article does not address at all, is just exactly which type of memories are affected, to what extent and in which order. Let's face it, biological/organic systems never function 'cross-board'.
    Therefore, if our brain develops data loss or even bad clusters, they are usually location specific, before starting to slowly spread.
    And my wild guess is that the location that is affected is short term memory. So, even if the test subjects would have had proper sleep, their short-term memory might have still gone blank.

    Seems people don't teach in schools that the best way to remember stuff is to store it in the long-term memory. And to force you brain to store data there, rather than in interim processing areas first, all you need to do, is come up with an image or association that your brain already knows and which you use frequently - your brain will immediately dig a thick set of synapses between that new data and well known one and hence store it long-term.

    I used to invent sentences that were sort of funny and rhymed and then associate them with data i needed to pass exams in hated subjects [physics, chemistry...]. guess what, i passed with flying colours and still remember every single piece after over ten years - but forgot plenty of stuff about subjects i liked [maths, jogfry, etc.]

    So, it's all about remembering by association, not processing while sleeping.
  • Well, that may not be true for long.

  • by pb ( 1020 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2000 @11:43PM (#608104)
    First, you can indeed make up for lost sleep by sleeping more; it'll make you feel better the next day; it just won't help you remember the previous day.

    Therefore, if you had a traumatic experience in your life, don't sleep! Then, after about a day of this, get really drunk. 14 hours later, you'll have slept like a baby and you won't remember a damn thing. Isn't science great?
    pb Reply or e-mail; don't vaguely moderate [ncsu.edu].
  • Pilots have specific rules about how much sleep they need and how many hours per month they can spend piloting.
  • by Pseudonymus Bosch ( 3479 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2000 @05:26AM (#608115) Homepage
    If your filesystem keeps timestamps from local time (FAT does), it could be interesting to study the statistics of source code.

    What was the mean time of the source files? What's the distribution? How does it compare to that of the binaries?
  • He must have forgot. :>

    - Jeff A. Campbell
    - VelociNews (http://www.velocinews.com [velocinews.com])
  • by dasunt ( 249686 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2000 @11:02PM (#608127)
    Caffiene does improve memory, if taken during/before the event one is trying to remember, IIRC. My college psychology teacher conducted a study on a North Dakota campus that helped to prove this effect. The teacher's name was MacPherson, the campus was either UMD or NDSU.

    Amazingly enough, alcohol, under some circumstances, will also improve memory. If one studies for a test and then drinks some beer afterwords (not during), they have a better chance of remembering what they learned. The theory is that alcohol intake helps prevent new input and thus allows what happened before be remembered better. For the non-drinkers, sleep will do the same thing. (Of course, this is the exception rather then the rule, most of the time, alcohol use, especially heavy alcohol use, destroys memory.)

    Speaking of drugs that are bad for you and yet can improve memory, I believe nicotine also does so. I remember reading a few years ago in a scientific journal that researchers had discovered the pathway that nicotine uses to help improve memory.

    For the caffiene study, the effect was a moderate amount of caffine, due to the university's regulations, high doses of caffiene can't be tested on people. I'm guessing the study involving alcohol had a simular restriction.
  • I recall a documentary on PBS a number of years ago that dealt with the effects of swing-shift work on employees. IIRC, it was an episode of either NOVA or The Brain.

    The reserchers were looking specifically at workers in a mid-western mining operation (I think it was a Bauxite strip-mine). The results of the study showed that the workers were more alert, and slept less on the job if their shifts were rotated in the order days, afternoons, midnights, days, rather than the industry standard days, midnights, afternoons. This "new" shift rotation pattern caused productivity at the mine to jump by 22%, which caught the attention of Management. The workers were happy that they were getting better sleep and the accident rate at the mine dropped sharply.

    The researchers also found that lengthening the amount of time spent in each segment of the cycle to 3 or 4 weeks, rather than the usual 2 weeks, also improved the efficiency and restedness of the workers.

  • by allanj ( 151784 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2000 @11:53PM (#608136)

    If you think that doing term-papers in whatever odd subject all night is tough, or coding all night for a week or two on some project, just wait for your children to be born. That's when real sleep deprivation sets in...

    And yes, I'm very much speaking from experience. But you know what? I think you CAN make your body adapt to fewer hours of sleep, but it's really hard. If you're used to 8 hours of sleep every night, start getting only 7,5 hours for a month. At first you'll be tired, but after the month your body will have gotten used to it. Now reduce to 7 hours for a month and so on. Sooner or later you'll hit your personal barrier where the sleepiness affects you too much - need I say that you should stop then?

    Doing this successfully requires you to continue to do so every day for a month, also in the week-end, which is exactly why it works so good when you have little children - they have no notion of weekends, anyway.

  • by bn557 ( 183935 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2000 @11:56PM (#608137) Homepage Journal
    The sleep pattern I use that works quite well(for about a month) is 3-4 hours at night, but then 3-4 15 minute power naps(fmpns) during the day. At the end of a semester on when I'm working on a big project I'll start using this sleep pattern. It takes me a day or 3 to adjust but afterwords I'm going pretty much non stop for 20 hours a day. Just have to make sure to schedule the naps. If you miss one it KILLS you.

    About to catch 4 hours right now.

  • I was a sleep apnea victim with initial symptoms around the year 1969, about 10 years before the disorder was 'discovered' and named by an Australian doctor named Sullivan. The disorder became severe enough by the time it was diagnosed (in 1989)that I was not getting any meaningful sleep at all for months at a time (I was diagnosed and successfully treated by a sleep specialist with a PhD in psychology. It wasn't until 1996 that I actually met an MD who knew was a CPAP was.).

    So I have some first-hand experience of long-term sleep deprivation. There are about 5 years of my life for which I have no clear memory, and I lost at least two jobs and one wife as side-effects of my almost total inability to function. I regard the fact that I actually survived this disorder to be a low-probably occurrence.

    I can vouch for the observation that sleep deprivation screws your memory. That was the thing I noticed first after my first night of CPAP-assisted sleep. I can still recall damn near everything that happened on the following day, but I have only dim recollection of the events that led up to my diagnosis and treatment, and essentially no memory of the two years prior to that. I kept a journal during that time, in part because I realized that my cognitive abilities were diminished; when I read the entries that I made during that period, it feels like I'm reading about somebody else.
  • Anybody remember that slashdot article that said caffeine improves memory...maybe sufficient coffee offsets this...I dunno, I can't remember what the article said :)
  • I don't wake up to an alarm clock. I stay 8 hours but if I wake up to an alarm clock I'll be groggy all day and unable to code. A groggy programmer on the job is a pretty much worthless. They won't be able to do anything except read slashdot :). If you have to have your programmers in early for meetings and such I suggest setting aside a designated nap room.
  • What am I doing is denying a result that I don't like because the experiment is fully biased.

    The experiment presents people with a rythm that, in any case, disturbs their biological clocks. Wether you sleep 1, 2 or 12 hours a day, you do it at night or in broad daylight. Now the average mass tends to sleep 8 hours a day at night. So what do we have here? You disturb ALL people and try to gather statistics. On the counter part of the experiment the average mass gets its time of due sleep. And you CONCLUDE that people should sleep those 8 hours a day. Isn't there an assymetry on results?
    Sorry but in my case ALL people do not have the usual sleep hours. I would not you that such things like the 25 hour bioclock, and other more weird rythms are well observed here. There are some who carry even a 32 hour clock.
    A more correct study would be to carry also an experiment with INTTERRUPTED sleep. You give people after a 2 days run, only 2 or four hours of sleep. And on those who went to sleep at regular time, to also interrupt their sleep the same way.
    This is simple and does not draws conclusions nearly impossible.

    And before getting stupid flamebait try to weight your words. As you said you DON'T know what I do. But the fact that I work 4 days in a row does not mean you're smarter. Maybe the contrary is much more true. And what concerns reading the articles, do read them before posting. But I also have some knowledge about bioclocks (NOT newspaper biorythms) and things like work in Cosmos and my own work. And my conclusion is that the article is pure crapped bias.
  • What is it with the computer industry and impossible deadlines anyway?

    Impossible people, usually. People who think N+1 trivial tasks take as long as N trivial tasks. People who think because it takes 15 seconds to fix a typo in HTML, it should also take 15 seconds to fix a subtle design error in the middle of a 23,000 line mound of code. People who simply refuse to understand the technology and what actually goes into the process. People who can't get over their control issues and thus feel they HAVE to set impossible deadlines or they aren't doing their jobs - in big companies this becomes an exercise in penis enlargement, I can schedule tighter deadlines than you. And so on.
  • by Saige ( 53303 ) <evil.angela@gma i l .com> on Wednesday November 22, 2000 @06:16AM (#608150) Journal
    Anyone see the irony in the medical field making these announcements about sleep and memory, while at the same time the people entering the medical field as interns an the like to learn are busy working 36 hour shifts and struggling for sleep?

    Perhaps doctors would get better faster if they had time to sleep after the workday and establish what they learned in their memory? And at the same time reduce the number of people misdiagnosed and mistreated because the doctor hasn't had any sleep in the same time you've had two full nights' worth?

    I'll make a bet with anyone that the field that made the discovery is the first to ignore it's implications...
  • It seems impossible to sleep with enough hours :(.

  • by cduffy ( 652 ) <charles+slashdot@dyfis.net> on Tuesday November 21, 2000 @11:20PM (#608161)
    What I see you doing is denying a result you don't like.

    Remember, you don't run an experiment which changes multiple variables. Otherwise, tracking down the cause of a variance is nearly impossible without a huge sample size (sufficient to analyse on any one variable at a time). Looking at varying "time frames... working scenarios [and] rhythms" would have made drawing a conclusion nearly impossible. Each of these factors may be isolated later -- but the point of the study, that some kinds of learning don't occur without sleep shortly after the experience is gained, is most certainly made.

    I don't know what you do. Maybe your job is so rote you can afford to not learn anything for 4 days out of five. I, on the other hand, cannot. And that's what this study was about.

    (Huh? You thought it was just that you can't make up sleep? Maybe you should read the articles before you post!)
  • by tbo ( 35008 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2000 @11:21PM (#608162) Journal
    I did a research project on sleep deprivation (titled "The effects of sleep deprivation on academic performance", and no, I wasn't the test subject), so I know a bit about the field.

    First of all, there are many different opinions, and little, if any, consensus about even basic things. Experts disagree about many things, and I've seen studies that completely contradicted the findings of this one.

    Here are some highlights of my research

    A study of surgical house staff and medical students found no effect of cumulative partial sleep deprivation on learning and long-term recall.
    Browne, B. J., T. Van Susteren, D. R. Onsager, D. Simpson, B. Salaymeh, and R. E. Condon. "Influence of sleep deprivation on learning among surgical house staff and medical students." Surgery 115.5 (1994): 604-610).

    A meta-analysis of 19 other studies found that partial sleep deprivation (less than 5 hours in a night) is actually worse than total sleep deprivation.
    Pilcher, J. J., and A. I. Huffcutt. "Effects of sleep deprivation on performance: a meta-analysis." Sleep 19.4 (1996): 318-326.

    There is a relationship between sleep quality and mood.
    Pilcher, J. J., D. R. Ginter, and B. Sadowsky. "Sleep quality versus sleep quantity: relationships between sleep and measures of health, well-being and sleepiness in college students." Journal of Psychosomatic Research 42.6 (1997): 583-596.

    The effects of sleep deprivation are cumulative, but can be reversed by two nights of "recovery" sleep (10 hours a night).
    Dinges, D.F., F. Pack, K. Williams, K. A. Gillen, J. W. Powell, G. E. Ott, C. Aptowicz, and A. I. Pack. "Cumulative sleepiness, mood disturbance, and psychomotor vigilance performance decrements during a week of sleep restricted to 4-5 hours per night." Sleep 20.4 (April 1997): 267-277.

    There, I've refuted the main claims of the new study, namely that sleep deprivation affects memory, that you can't make up for sleep deprivation by sleeping more on following days, and that a little sleep is better than none. Unlike most Slashdot posts, I've even included my sources.

    Here's the lesson for the day, as master Yoda might say it:

    One study does not a fact make.

    Also, note that bit about partial sleep deprivation being worse than total sleep deprivation--that came from a meta-analysis of 19 studies, and was a very strong correlation. Perhaps pulling the occasional all-nighter is better than staying up a few hours late every night...
  • This isn't meant as offense, but perhaps you are outside the norm. Of course there are exceptional cases (like yourself) who can do with little sleep. There are also exceptional cases like myself who need at least 10 hours to feel fully concious. This study, however, is probably accurate for the vast majority of people. For people outside the norm, you can ignore the specific number of hours they mention and just pay attention to the overall theory:

    Get the amount of sleep you need.

    For you, that may be 4 hours a night. For me it's 10. Listening to your body is a good idea.

  • Ok time to work on the NyQuil to Coke ratio

    I will get back to you after extensive tests.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I had a similiar experience that taught me to study from the right text book. Nothing like walking into a history exam knowing your chemistry.
  • by einstein ( 10761 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2000 @10:13PM (#608172) Homepage Journal
    anyone else amused that this story was posted at 2 in the morning?
    I am.

    Chuckling off to bed.
  • ..lack of sex had the same effect as sleeplessness apparently does. I wonder if we could get a govt grant to study the varying effects of sleep/sex/caffeine/mexican food on short term memory loss.

  • Hmmm...

    Sleeplessness = Memory Loss
    Caffiene = Memory Retention

    therefore, Caffiene is anti-Sleep!

    BTW, I wonder what wonderful power source we could get by making a Caffiene-Sleep Reactor!

  • by Anne Marie ( 239347 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2000 @10:15PM (#608179)
    The link between sleeplessness and memory loss has always been intuitively known [caregiverzone.com] for eons. We've also known for quite some time that sleeplessness takes a toll [businessweek.com] on the workforce. According to some reports [sleepfoundation.org], 51% of Americans report that sleeplessness interferes with their productivity. People are going to bed late and failing to get up early, and not surprisingly, (according to that same source) a third of the population wishes they could nap on the job (and surprisingly, 16% of employers "endorse naps on the job" -- I wish I had that sort of employer).

    Unfortunately, the outlook isn't good for people who fail to get their eight or so hours of sleep per night. Sleeplessness increases stress and raises bloodpressure (which can increase heart attacks), can precipitate ulcers, and can even promote alzhe ime rs [about.com]. Sadly, very techies and engineers who are designing the technology that will preserve more information in the next few years than has been recorded in the history of humanity won't "be around" to see it happen, as debilitating diseases rob them of the ability to perceive the world they have constructed. What begins with immediate memory loss will ultimately be cemented in their old age.

    The solution is clear. OSHA already has standards in place to prev ent RSI injuries [go.com] in the workplace. Federal laws already exist governing how often and for how long truck drivers must sleep before returning [detnews.com] to the road. New guidelines must be set for how much IT workers can be forced to work without sleep. In the footsteps of pioneers of the 10-hour work day of the nineteenth century, we must today pioneer the 8-hour sleep day. The safety of our IT infrastructure and ultimately of our fellow workers demands it.
  • New guidelines must be set for how much IT workers can be forced to work without sleep.

    I am so tired of this type of thinking. Doesn't anyone realize how much destruction and waste it has caused? Just because something is a good idea, doesn't mean it should be required by law! The purpose of government isn't to micro-manage its citizens lives.

  • by Idaho ( 12907 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2000 @12:53AM (#608191)
    ...why things are always posted twice on Slashdot!
  • by Stultsinator ( 160564 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2000 @07:25AM (#608193)
    There's an article here [nasa.gov] about a few NASA studies on sleep schedules (under Altered wake-sleep cycles and Altered work-rest schedules.) In summary, they also found that a "4 on, 4 off" schedule was optimal.
  • by www.sorehands.com ( 142825 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2000 @10:18PM (#608197) Homepage
    I found a way to use sleep for memorization.

    Read through all the material, turn off the light and sleep. In the morning look at the material and be suprised at the recall. I memorized 6 chapters of American history in 20 minutes for a final exam. It was not perfect, only got a 97% on the exam.

    I must need sleep, I can't remember which president won the election....Bush? Dukakis?

Computers are unreliable, but humans are even more unreliable. Any system which depends on human reliability is unreliable. -- Gilb