Monday, May 6, 2019

Split Sleep Schedule Can Compensate for the Cognitive Impairment Caused by Sleep Deprivation

Article Written By: Kian Yousefi Kousha


Science is yet to find the appropriate amount of sleep that prevents cognitive impairment in humans. In cases where the normal nocturnal sleep schedule cannot be accomplished, one might wonder if sleep can be done in mornings or split throughout the day.

This was the basis of a recent study done by the Sleep Research Society (SRS) that studied various sleep cycles and found that the disturbed function of the hippocampus after moderate levels of sleep deprivation can be compensated by splitting sleep.

The study focused on 4 groups which were assigned to different times and durations of sleep. One group had 6.5 hours of nocturnal sleep while the other had 5 hours. In addition, a third group was assigned to 6.5 hours of sleep that was divided into 5 hours of nocturnal sleep and 1.5 hours of daytime napping. A control group was also assigned to 9 hours of nocturnal sleep.

In order to study the function of the hippocampus in the participants, the Four Mountains Test (4MT) was used which can assess the short-term memory associated with topographical images and spatial information. In the results, the performance of individuals with 5 or 6.5 hours of nocturnal sleep during the 4MT was impaired compared to the control group. Interestingly, participants with a split sleep schedule (5 hours of nocturnal sleep and 1.5 hours of napping) had almost the same level of performance compared to the control group.

For individuals undergoing sleep deprivation, splitting sleep can be advantageous for cognitive and neurophysiological functions that affect one’s learning. However, while it can compensate for sleep deprivation, split sleep schedule should not be used as a replacement for normal nocturnal sleep.

Read the full article by the Sleep Research Society here:

Title Image Credit: Sleep Review, The Journal for Sleep Specialists
In-text Image Credit: Sleep Research Society

Sleep, Volume 42, Issue 4, April 2019, zsz018,
Sleep Research Society 2019. Published by Oxford University Press [on behalf of the Sleep Research Society]

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