When I was still in school, I used to cram for tests and exams. I didn’t mind not getting enough sleep as long as I get to finish reading the material for my exam.

But a new study from Uppsala University in Sweden tells us that sleep loss paired with acute stress negatively affects important cognitive functions. Bad news for crammers.

“In everyday situations — parenting, exams, doctors on call — stress and short sleep often go hand in hand,” Dr. Jonathan Cedernaes, a neuroscientist at the university and the study’s lead author, said in a statement.

“Even politicians often have overnight meetings and resume talks after just a couple of hours of sleep, under very time-pressed and thereby presumably very stressful conditions.”

“Stress has been shown to alter how the brain access[es] different memory systems and down-prioritize[s] access to ‘factual’ memories, instead prioritizing motor/skill memories,” Cedernaes explained.

That 10 percent reduction in memory recall was after a single night of sleep loss and a limited period of stress. As a next step, the researchers hope to examine how chronic sleep loss and chronic stress might affect the ability to access memories.

In the real world, there are ways to increase the chances that students and workers will get enough sleep and thus perform at their peak. Delaying especially early-morning start times could help students to learn better, while offering more flexible schedules could help employees optimize their own productivity.

Read the entire article here and remember to get some shuteye before your exams!

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