MySleepApnea.Org

Bad Sleep = Bad Decisions

Posted on: August 26, 2008

Studies have shown the lack of sleep speeds up risky decisions.

  Heightened expectations and low risk perception – that is what lack of sleep seems to induce when decision making during gambling was studied in an experimental study. This showed that parts of the brain, where regions were important in responding to losses were under-recruited when losses were encountered. This represents a double jeopardy – expecting a higher payout when none is really offered and being less sensitive to loss, when it might be prudent to be.

  Sleep deprivation affects many aspects of our well being. It impairs vigilance, flexible thinking, working memory, and executive functioning. People appear to make fewer optimal decisions when they lack adequate sleep.

  Understanding why we make poorer choices when sleep deprived is important not only because of the increaseing numbers of persons affected, but also because there exists today, unprecedented  opportunities to incur damaging losses by means such as online gambling. This work is one of many that evaluated the neutral correlates of decison-making but the first to apply such methods to sleep deprived individuals.

  It was observed that there are quite large differences to the necessity for sleep. While most lay persons do not question the need for sleep and acknowledge that sleep restriction for whatever reason is something they would avoid if given a chance, there are a surprising number of persons like Thomas Edison who felt that sleep was optional and that man would evolve to do away with sleep.

A 2007 study in the journal Sleep used a gambling task to show that risky decisions can be more attractive to a sleep-deprived brain. The study also cites other research showing that well-rested people learn to avoid high risks and choose what is most advantageous, while sleep-deprived people tend to continue making high-risk decisions.

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