The Impact of Sleep on Problem Solving

Sleep (and the lack of it) can have effects on behaviour and psychological performance [1]. Sleeping well has been found to be fundamental for good wellbeing [2].  

Unfortunately, a study by Kabrita (2014) [2] revealed that in a study with 540 university students over half were shown to be poor sleepers and over 12% reported sleeping less than 6.5 hours per night.  

This is concerning for multiple reasons, as quality and quantity of sleep have been found to be closely associated with learning capacity and academic performance [3].  

Furthermore, lack of sleep has been found to affect problem solving in many studies. One study found that one night of lost sleep can significantly affect complex cognitive tasks [4]. A number of studies have also found that the speed of the problem-solving performance decreases with lack of sleep [5]; [6] and this can be significant with just one night’s loss of sleep. 

PGR project work is composed of many complex tasks and ongoing problem solving. Good sleep is one way of ensuring that your problem-solving ability remains in good working order and that you are ready to complete the many tasks that face you. 

Sleep and Impact on Academic Performance, Mood and Mental Health  

Lack of sleep can have an effect on academic performance, your mood and mental health. Academic performance has been shown to decrease when an individual has less sleep or decreased quality of sleep [7]. It has also been associated with deficits in attention, drowsiness [8] and riskier behaviours [9]. However poor sleep, or lack of sleep, has a negative effect on social relationships and can increase depression [10]; [11]. Social relationships and interactions with friends and work colleagues can become strained when experiencing lack of sleep [11]. However, there are techniques on how to improve your sleep.   (See “Tips to Improve Your Sleep“)



Harrison Y, Home JA. The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Decision Making: A Review. J Exp Psychol Appl [Internet]. 2000 [cited 2019 Jan 29];6(3):236–49. Available from:


Kabrita CS, Hajjar-Muça TA, Duffy JF. Predictors of poor sleep quality among Lebanese university students: association between evening typology, lifestyle behaviors, and sleep habits. Nat Sci Sleep [Internet]. 2014 [cited 2019 Apr 30];6:11–8. Available from:


Curcio G, Ferrara M, De Gennaro L. Sleep loss, learning capacity and academic performance. Sleep Med Rev [Internet]. 2006 [cited 2019 Jan 29];10:323–37. Available from:


Linde L, Bergstrome M. The effect of one night without sleep on problem-solving and immediate recall. Psychol Res [Internet]. 1992 [cited 2019 Apr 12];54(2):127–36. Available from:


Naitoh P, Englund CE, Ryman DH. Circadian rhythms determined by cosine curve fitting: Analysis of continuous work and sleep-loss data. Vol. 7, Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers. 1985.


Webb WB, Levy CM. Age, Sleep Deprivation, and Performance. Psychophysiology [Internet]. 1982 May 1 [cited 2019 Aug 29];19(3):272–6. Available from:


Howell AJ, Jahrig JC, Powell RA. Sleep Quality, Sleep Propensity and Academic Performance. Percept Mot Skills [Internet]. 2004 Oct 31 [cited 2019 Aug 29];99(2):525–35. Available from:


Cummings P, Koepsell TD, Moffat JM, Rivara FP. Drowsiness, counter-measures to drowsiness, and the risk of a motor vehicle crash. Inj Prev [Internet]. 2001 Sep 1 [cited 2019 Aug 29];7(3):194–9. Available from:


O’Brien EM, Mindell JA. Sleep and Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents. Behav Sleep Med [Internet]. 2005 Aug [cited 2019 Aug 29];3(3):113–33. Available from:


Kaneita Y, Ohida T, Uchiyama M, Takemura S, Kawahara K, Yokoyama E, et al. The Relationship Between Depression and Sleep Disturbances. J Clin Psychiatry [Internet]. 2006 Feb 15 [cited 2019 Aug 29];67(02):196–203. Available from:


Kent RG, Uchino BN, Cribbet MR, Bowen K, Smith TW. Social Relationships and Sleep Quality. Ann Behav Med [Internet]. [cited 2019 Aug 29]; Available from: