A new study warns that people stay up late to complete a work project or exam may affect their long-term performance and mood. Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology found that staying up for hours, just a few days, had a significant effect on mood and a person’s ability to focus.
Getting proper and safe sleep is critical to health and mental health, according to extensive research in the past. The exact effects of sleep deprivation vary depending on factors such as length of time, but may include affecting driving, high blood pressure, excess appetite, obesity, increased risk of cancer, etc. Despite these warnings, many people still cannot get enough sleep.
The study found that participants who stayed up two hours a night experienced emotional passivation and a decrease in performance associated with their ability to concentrate. The researchers observed these negative effects after staying up three nights.
The participants were tasked with a simple computer test in which they were asked to view random images, and when the letters “X” were included in the images, they pressed a button. Ingvild Saksvik-Lehouillier, an associate professor in the DEPARTMENT of Psychology at NTNU, details the test results:
We tested the speed and accuracy of the reaction. After participants were deprived of sleep, the reaction time decreased, but the error rate increased. It seems that we react faster to compensate for the reduced concentration. Then there will be more mistakes. On mornings that sleep less than usual, it may be wise to avoid activities that require a high degree of accuracy.
As for mood, the study did not find that reduced sleep time led to depression or decreased mood, but rather basically blunted positive emotions. This may pave the way for mental health problems over time; it is unclear how long it will take for positive emotions to return to normal after normal sleep.