The Relationship Between Sleep and Executive Function

New research confirms that those who sleep for a shorter period each night have poorer executive function skills. The recent study was performed with adolescent subjects, but other research has shown similar results among all age groups.

The link between sleep and executive function is no secret. If you’ve ever gotten a very poor night’s sleep and had to perform tasks the next day, the findings of this research probably don’t come as a surprise at all! Our executive function skills are noticeably worse even if we’ve had just one night of poor sleep. Cognitive abilities that we use every day, such as making decisions, planning, and controlling impulsive behaviors may become compromised when we don’t get enough sleep. This can affect quality of life over a longer period of time.

Are you working with a patient who is seeking to improve their executive function? Encouraging them to track and improve their sleep patterns could be an important step in their treatment. 

sleep executive function

Improving sleep duration

Here are a few ways for patients to improve their sleep quality and duration:

  • Set a fixed time to go to bed, and a fixed wake-up time each day.
  • Get into a relaxing mindset (this can include reading, a guided meditation, gentle stretches, or soothing music.)
  • Avoid screens for at least 30 minutes before bed, as screens can keep our brains alert and disrupt our natural melatonin production.
  • Keep a sleep journal. Note how long you slept, and what you did earlier that day. Tracking sleep with this method can help identify the causes of poor sleep.

More sleep tips can be found through The Sleep Foundation.

Other ways to improve executive functioning

HappyNeuron’s cognitive exercises may lead to improved executive functioning over time. The exercises may help patients with strategies such as planning efficient and effective actions, making decisions while understanding consequences, and becoming more cognitively flexible. Over time, working on these strategies can have immense benefits such as learning to make better decisions and being a more self-reliant person.

A holistic approach may be beneficial if your patient is working on improving their executive function skills. Therapy including cognitive exercises may lead to immense improvements over time. In addition to the treatment, encouraging your patient to make small changes in their daily habits such as improving their sleep duration can improve outcomes even further.

Aly Castle

Aly is HappyNeuron Pro’s Content Specialist. She is passionate about mental health and well-being and loves utilizing her design background to share important cognitive information clearly and understandably.

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