Psychological Research

, Volume 54, Issue 2, pp 127–136 | Cite as

The effect of one night without sleep on problem-solving and immediate recall

  • L. Linde
  • M. Bergströme


The aim of the study was to investigate the effect of spending one night without sleep on the performance of complex cognitive tasks, such as problem-solving, in comparison with a purely short-term memory task. One type of task investigated was immediate free recall, assumed to reflect the holding capacity of the working memory. The other type of task investigated was represented by syntactical reasoning and problem-solving tasks, assumed to reflect the processing (the mental transformation of input) and monitoring capacity of the working memory. Two experiments with a repeated-measures design were performed. Experiment 1 showed a significant decline in performance as a function of sleep loss on Raven's progressive matrices, a problem-solving task. No other main effect of sleep loss was found. Experiment 2 had a different order between tasks than Experiment 1 and the time without sleep was increased. A number-series induction task was also used in Experiment 2. A significant, negative effect of sleep loss in performance on Raven's progressive matrices was found in Experiment 2. The effects of sleep loss on the other tasks were nonsignificant. It is suggested that Raven's progressive-matrices task reflects the ability to monitor encoding operations (selective attention) and to monitor mental “computations”.


Memory Task Free Recall Selective Attention Cognitive Task Significant Decline 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Angus, R. G., & Heslegrave, R. J. (1985). Effects of sleep and sustained cognitive performance during a command and control simulation.Behavior Research Methods, Instruments and Computers, 17, 55–67.Google Scholar
  2. Babkoff, H., Mikulincer, M., Caspy, T., Kempinski, D., & Sing, H. (1988). The topology of performance curves during 72 hours of sleep loss: A memory and search task.Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 40A, 737–756.Google Scholar
  3. Baddeley, A. D. (1968). A 3 min reasoning test based on grammatical transformations.Psychonomic Science, 10, 341–342.Google Scholar
  4. Elkin, A. L., & Murray, D. J. (1974). The effects of sleep loss on short-term recognition memory.Canadian Journal of Psychology, 28, 192–198.Google Scholar
  5. Englund, C. E., Ryman, D. H., Naitoh., P., & Hodgdon, J. A. (1985). Cognitive performance during successive sustained physical work episodes.Behavior Research Methods, Instruments and Computers, 17, 75–85.Google Scholar
  6. Folkard, S. (1975). Diurnal variations in logical reasoning.British Journal of Psychology, 66, 1–8.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Folkard, S. (1979). Changes in immediate memory strategy under induced muscle tension and with time of day.Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 31, 621–633.Google Scholar
  8. Hamilton, P., Hockey, R., & Rejman, M. (1977). The place of the concept of activation in human information processing theory: An integrative approach. In S. Dornic (Ed.).Attention and performance, VI. Hillsdale, NJ: LEA.Google Scholar
  9. Hasher, L., & Zacks, R. T. (1979). Automatic and effortful processes in memory.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 108, 356–388.Google Scholar
  10. Haslam, D. R. (1982). Sleep loss, recovery sleep and military performance.Ergonomics, 25, 163–178.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Hockey, R. (1973). Changes in information-selection patterns in multisource monitoring as a function of induced arousal shifts.Journal of Experimental Psychology, 101, 35–42.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Johnson, L. C. (1969). Psychological and physiological changes following total sleep deprivation. In A. Kales (Ed.),Sleep: Physiology and pathology, Philadelphia: Lipincott.Google Scholar
  13. Kahneman, P. (1973). Attention and effort, Englewood Cliffs, N. Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  14. Kjellberg, A. (1975). Effects of sleep deprivation on performance of a problem solving task,Psychological Reports, 37, 479–485.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. May, J., & Kline, P. (1987). Measuring the effects upon cognitive abilities of sleep loss during continuous operations.British Journal of Psychology, 78, 443–455.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Opstad, P. K., Ekanger, R., Nummerstad, M., & Raabe, N. (1978). Performance, mood and clinical symptoms in men exposed to prolonged, severe physical work and sleep deprivation.Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine. September, 1065–1073.Google Scholar
  17. Polzella, D. J. (1975). Effects of sleep-deprivation on short-term memory and recognition.Journal of Experimental Psychology, Human Learning and Memory, 104, 194–200.Google Scholar
  18. Pribram, K. H., & McGuiness, D. (1975). Arousal, activation and effort in the control of attention.Psychological Review 82, 116–149.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Raven, J. C., Court, J. H., & Raven, J. (1983).Manual for Raven's progressive matrices and vocabulary scales: Advanced progressive matrices. London: J. C. Raven Ltd.Google Scholar
  20. Sanders, A. F. (1983). Towards a model of stress and human performance.Acta Psychologica, 53, 61–97.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Schneider, W., & Shiffrin, R. M. (1977). Controlled and automatic human information processing 1. Detection, search and attention,Psychological Review, 84, 1–66.Google Scholar
  22. Steyvers, F. J. J. M. (1987). The influence of sleep deprivation and knowledge of results on perceptual encoding,Acta Psychologica, 66, 173–187.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Tucker, D. M., & Williamson, D. A. (1984). Assymmetric neural control systems in human self-regulation.Psychological Review 91, 185–215.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Webb, W. B., & Levy, C. M. (1982). Age, sleep deprivation and performance.Psychophysiology, 19, 272–276.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Webb, W. B., & Levy, C. M. (1984). Effects of spaced and repeated sleep deprivation.Ergonomics, 27, 45–58.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Williams, H. L., & Lubin, A. (1967). Speeded addition and sleep loss.Journal of Experimental Psychology, 73, 313–317.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. Linde
    • 1
  • M. Bergströme
    • 2
  1. 1.National Defense Research EstablishmentSundbybergSweden
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of StockholmStockholmSweden

Personalised recommendations