Can stimulants make you smarter, despite stealing your sleep?

Lauren N. Whitehurst, Allison Morehouse, Sara C. Mednick

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Nonmedical use of psychostimulants for cognitive enhancement is widespread and growing in neurotypical individuals, despite mixed scientific evidence of their effectiveness. Sleep benefits cognition, yet the interaction between stimulants, sleep, and cognition in neurotypical adults has received little attention. We propose that one effect of psychostimulants, namely decreased sleep, may play an important and unconsidered role in the effect of stimulants on cognition. We discuss the role of sleep in cognition, the alerting effects of stimulants in the context of sleep loss, and the conflicting findings of stimulants for complex cognitive processes. Finally, we hypothesize that sleep may be one unconsidered factor in the mythology of stimulants as cognitive enhancers and propose a methodological approach to systematically assess this relation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Elsevier Ltd


  • cognition
  • cognitive enhancement
  • memory
  • sleep
  • stimulant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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