Sleep is essential for physical and mental health because during a sleep cycle the body recovers and recharges. Sleep has been shown to improve motor performance and cognitive functions such as reaction time, short-term memory and concentration, in addition to aiding in metabolism regulation, weight loss, and emotional wellbeing. Recent literature reported that increased sleep duration improves mental health, cognition and physical performance. In contrast, sleep loss can be extremely harmful to overall health. Sleep deprivation has been associated with impaired cognitive abilities, physical dysfunction, and poorer quality of life. The number of people suffering from sleep disorders has increased tremendously in the 21st century and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has declared sleep deprivation a public health epidemic. The purpose of this study was to assess how sleep length affects cognition and motor function among college-aged students. The participants in this study recorded their sleep duration for four weeks and completed tests that evaluated their cognitive function (short-term memory, reaction time) and motor performance (a timed tandem gait test). At the end of the study a Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) questionnaire evaluated their sleep quality, and blood hemoglobin levels were measured using the Tallquist method, to test for anemia. The results indicated that all participants had poor quality of sleep during the month of testing. On testing day, all participants had normal hemoglobin blood levels, which ruled out anemia as a variable. No significant differences were found between sleep duration and reaction time (t=0.376) or timed tandem gait (t=0.587), p=0.05. On the contrary, sleeping more than seven hours the night before testing significantly improved short-term memory scores (t=0.023), while sleeping less than seven hours significantly decreased scores. These findings suggest that sleep reduction significantly affect short-term memory but does not significantly affect reaction time or timed tandem gait.

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