Their analysis revealed that stress upon waking was strongly associated with more errors on WM tests taken throughout the same day across subjects of all ages (25 to 65 years).
“Importantly, the effect of stress anticipation was over and above the effect of stressful events reported to have occurred,” they wrote, “indicating that anticipatory processes can produce effects on functioning independent of the presence of an external stressor.”
Anxiety at night was not significantly associated with working memory scores.
Dr Sliwinski believes the results could help guide development of interventions that help people maximize their cognitive ability during periods of morning dread – something that any overworked person is likely to experience.
“If you wake up and feel like the day is going to be stressful, maybe your phone can remind you to do some deep breathing relaxation before you start your day,” Sliwinski said. “Or if your cognition is at a place where you might make a mistake, maybe you can get a message that says now might not be the best time to go for a drive.”
He notes that the team has already initiated follow-up studies that will evaluate physiological manifestations of daily stress by having subjects wear biosensor devices.