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Unlocking Cognitive Wellness: The Role of Exercise in Sleep-Deprived Minds

In a world where chronic sleep deprivation affects nearly 40% of the global population, the pursuit of optimal cognitive performance has become a priority. In the short-term, sleep deprivation negatively impacts cognitive performance which can affect attention span, judgment, and emotional state. Recent research conducted by the University of Portsmouth delves into the intricate relationship between sleep, oxygen levels, exercise, and cognitive performance.


The study, involving two experiments with a total of 24 participants, focused on how cognitive performance is influenced by sleep deprivation and hypoxia (low oxygen levels). The research found that engaging in a bout of moderate-intensity exercise improved cognitive performance, regardless of the participants' sleep status or oxygen levels. Dr. Joe Costello from the University's School of Sport, Health & Exercise Science highlights the significance of the findings, stating that exercise is not only beneficial for the body but also for the brain. The study used a moderate-intensity exercise program, as longer or more strenuous exercise might have acted as a stressor itself.


Moderate-intensity cycling

The experiments explored partial sleep deprivation and total sleep deprivation with hypoxia. In both cases, participants experienced an improvement in cognitive performance after 20 minutes of cycling. The study challenges the traditional belief that cognitive performance is solely dependent on the prefrontal cortex, suggesting instead a broader network of coordinated processes across different cortical and subcortical regions. The study acknowledges that sleep deprivation often coexists with other stressors such as low oxygen levels. This recognition prompts further investigation into the intricate mechanisms behind cognitive function, beyond the traditional focus on the prefrontal cortex. The implications extend beyond athletes or individuals facing specific challenges to include anyone experiencing disrupted sleep patterns.


Whether you're a dedicated athlete or someone seeking to enhance cognitive function and physical health, the combination of these elements offers a synergistic path to a healthier life both mentally and physically. By incorporating exercise, we not only optimize physical potential but also elevate cognitive function creating a harmonious connection between body and mind. If you haven’t exercised in a while or feel like you need some guidance on where to start, your sports chiropractor or physical therapist might be able to help. Contact Summit Sports Chiropractic & Rehab today and get ready to elevate your performance-both mind and body!



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