MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Michael K. Scullin, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience
Director, Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory
Waco, TX 76798
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: In studio-based courses (e.g., design, architecture, art), students have a large project due at the end of the semester that requires creativity and attention to detail. Anecdotally, they will work long hours without sleep to finish the project.
The problem is that cutting back on sleep may actually be impeding their ability to execute the project successfully.
We used wristband actigraphy (a device that detects movement and light) to monitor sleep for one week in 28 interior design students—many of whom had a final project due. At the beginning and end of the week, the participants completed tests of attention and creativity.
We found that students slept less than contemporary recommendations (7 to 9 hours; Associated Professional Sleep Societies) on approximately half of the nights, and shorter sleep was associated with declining attention and creativity scores across the week. The more thought provoking result was that many individuals showed inter-night variability in how long they slept (e.g., going from 4 hours to 11 hours to 5 hours to 8 hours, etc.). Inter-night variability in sleep duration was an even stronger predictor than total sleep time in how creativity scores changed across the week.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: It’s not just total sleep time that is important to maintaining optimal functioning. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is also critical. Restricting sleep and then “catching up” does not average out.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: Many studies have randomly assigned participants to sleep for 8 hours/night or 5 hours/night consistently, but I’d like to see the cognitive effects of randomly assigning participants to maintain a consistent sleep schedule versus a variable sleep schedule.
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