top of page
  • Writer's pictureDr. Bill Hoekstra

Poor Sleep Hurts Decision Making

New research reveals that just one night without sleep can significantly alter decision-making processes.

The power of sleep and the vital role it plays in human health, cognitive performance, and regulating emotional well-being is well understood. Numerous studies into a lack of sleep have shown drops in neurocognitive functions, particularly vigilant attention, motor responses, inhibition control, and working memory. Despite this, sleep loss continues to challenge public health and affect people of all ages.

With little insight into the impact of a lack of sleep on risky decision-making at the neuroimaging level, researchers from the University of Ottawa and the University of Pennsylvania found a 24-hour period of sleep deprivation significantly impacted individuals’ decision-making processes by dampening neural responses to the outcomes of their choices.

In other words, people tend to exhibit reduced positive emotions in response to winning outcomes and diminished negative emotions when faced with losses after pulling an all-nighter compared to their well-rested baseline condition.

“Common sense does dictate if people incur sleep loss, sleep disturbance, or a sleep disorder that their cognitive function will be impacted, their attention and efficiency will decrease. But there is an emotional impact, too,” says Zhuo Fang, PhD, a Data Scientist in the Department of Psychology at the Faculty of Social Sciences, in a release.

“If you experience even just one night of sleep deprivation, there will be an impact, even on a neural level. So, we wanted to combine brain imaging and behavior to see that impact,” adds Fang, who is affiliated with uOttawa’s Brain and Mind Research Institute and The Royal, in the release.

The study, published in Psychophysiology, evaluated the impact of one night of total sleep deprivation on 56 healthy adults and found:

  • A single night of total sleep loss significantly decreased the brain activation to win and loss outcomes, suggesting that acute sleep loss can have a dampening effect on neural responses to decision outcomes during risk-taking.

  • Total sleep deprivation had a detrimental effect by disrupting the relationship between neural response and an individual’s risk-taking behavior, which might be related to the altered perception for risk-taking.

While numerous studies have previously illustrated the wide-ranging effects of sleep deprivation on various brain and cognitive functions, including attention processing, memory consolidation, and learning, this study addresses the specific impact of sleep loss on decision-making.

“These results underscore the importance of maintaining adequate sleep and how individuals should refrain from making important decisions when experiencing chronic or acute sleep deprivation,” says Fang in the release. “In specific professions where decision-makers are required to operate under accumulated sleep loss, specialized training or fatigue risk management might be necessary to enable them to handle such situations effectively.”

1 view0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Sleep Statistics

44 Surprising Sleep Statistics That Will Remind You Why Sleep Is Essential by Ashlee Valentine CNET Contributor These statistics help us understand why sleep is crucial to our health and reveal how ex

Insomnia and depression

Zhang, N., Ma, S., Wang, P. et al. Psychosocial factors of insomnia in depression: a network approach. BMC Psychiatry 23, 949 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-023-05454-9 Abstract Background Ins

Most Night-Shift Workers have a Sleep Disorder

HEALTH12 December 2023 By DAVID NIELD There's a problem for the roughly 1 in 10 people who regularly work night shifts, according to a new study: more than half of them have likely developed some ki

  • Facebook Social Icon
bottom of page