eep on Memory A case study on how sleep patterns affect memory

Essay by KC3413High School, 11th gradeB-, November 2009

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The aim of this experiment is to determine whether or not the amount of sleep people get would have an effect on their capability to remember things. The null hypothesis of this experiment would be the sleep pattern of the participant will not affect their ability to memorize a list of words. The research of this experiment would be if the participant gets a good night's sleep, they will be able to memorize more words from a list than when they haven't gotten enough sleep.

The independent variable of this experiment would be the amount of sleep the participant gets and the dependant variable would be the number of words that are correctly recalled from the list by the participant. There are three known potential confounding variables. These are the participants natural ability to memorize. If they have a weak or strong memory in general it could affect the accuracy of the results.

Then the familiarity with the words. If the words are brand new they would be much harder to remember and if the words are too commonly used they would be too easy to remember. Lastly the participant's natural sleeping habit. Whether they are able to sleep well all through the night or not and how long they spend in each of the 4 stages of sleep.

The design used for this experiment will be independent samples. There will be 2 participants being tested. They will each get one night of good, uninterrupted, 10 hour sleep then in the morning they will be given a list of words to memorize and recall. Then they will each get another night of 10 hour sleep but will be interrupted several times during the night and in the morning they will each be given a different set of words to memorize and recall. The number of words they were able to recall correctly will be recorded each time for both participants. The experiment will also be repeated a week later.

Independent sampling will be used for this experiment so that the same list of words can be used for both participants being tested. There are two different participants being studied in the same experiment to make results more reliable.

The controls that are implicated on this study are each participant will get the same amount of sleep, they will each get the same lists of words to memorize and the same amount of time to study and recall, and they will each be tested at the same time of the morning.

Two English students from year 10 will be selected at random to participate in this experiment. This way of sampling was chosen because if the participants are at the same level of English the words would be equally familiar and if the students are picked at random there is no chance of biasness. Although the limitations of this method of sampling are the results can only be generalized to 10th grade students with that level of English, and if the results are different for each participant we would not be able to tell which participant the experiment went wrong with.

The appropriate ethical considerations for this experiment would be getting Informed consent from the participants selected and from their parents as they would most likely be under 18 years of age, debriefing will have to take place after the study, and making sure the participants have perfectly healthy sleeping patterns prior to the experiment so that the experiment won't have a long term affect on them.

A detailed method of procedure for this experiment would be as follows:Two students from a year 10 english class will be selected at random to participate in the experiment. Each participant will be monitored over night twice. On the first night they would not be disturbed for 10 hours and then woken up and given the same list of 20 words separately and asked to take 10 minutes to memorize the list, then take a 20 minute break, then they would each be given a blank sheet of paper and 10 minutes to write down all the words they remember from the list. Their results will be recorded. The next night the participants will also get 10 hours sleep but will be woken up every one and a half hours. After the 10 hours of sleep they will be woken up and given the same list of words as each other but different to the morning before. They will be given 10 minutes to study the list, then take a 20 minute break, and then 10 minutes to recall the words they remember on another blank sheet of paper. Their results will be recorded and compared to their results from the morning after the uninterrupted night of sleep. This experiment will be repeated a week later to confirm original results.

All 8 test results (2 for each participant, each week) will be compared against each other and then the average results of the participants will be compared to accurately determine what this study proves.

There are a few potential problems with this experiment such as two participants may not be enough to get accurate results as there may be personal difference that can greatly interfere with the experiment and the focused age group of the participants does not help us to know if the results change with different age groups.

In conclusion the results of this study do in fact prove the research hypothesis to be accurate and show that a better nights rest actually does improve people's capability to memorize things. Many other studies of the same type such as those from Howard Nusbaum, Psychology students from the University of Chicago, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and many more also demonstrate the effects of sleep on memory.

If the experiment were to be done again it would be better to use more participants of different age groups. Perhaps use musical students by playing a song and seeing how much they remember of the notes played so that language differences do not get in the way.

The major implication of this study was how the sleep of the participants was controlled so severely. This could make being a participant in this experiment very difficult as their natural sleep pattern may be completely different to what is being forced on them now. Being woken up every hour and a half does not allow the body to get into the forth and deepest stage of sleep and so the body and brain is not fully at rest during the night which is why it is that much harder for the brain to function when it comes to things like memory test the next day.