When Sleep Suffers, So Does Decisiveness

Not being well-rested can be dangerous for those whose jobs require quick reactions, researchers say

SATURDAY, Nov. 21, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Sleep-deprived people may put themselves and others at risk when they need to make split-second decisions, U.S. researchers have found.

The study, which included 49 U.S. military cadets, looked at how sleep deprivation affected information-integration, a process that relies heavily on instantaneous, gut-feeling decisions.

"It's important to understand this domain of procedural learning because information-integration -- the fast and accurate strategy -- is critical in situations when soldiers need to make split-second decisions based about whether a potential target is an enemy soldier, a civilian or one of their own," Todd Maddox, a psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said in a university news release.

The ability to make split-second decisions is crucial in a number of other high-pressure professions, including firefighters and police officers, the study authors noted.

The cadets performed information-integration tasks twice -- once when they were well-rested and once while they were sleep-deprived. The results showed that moderate sleep deprivation can cause an overall immediate loss of information-integration thought processes.

Accuracy on the information-integration tasks declined by 2.4 percent (73.1 percent to 70.7 percent) when cadets were sleep-deprived, and improved by 4.3 percent (74 percent to 78.3 percent) when they were well-rested, the researchers found.

The study was published in the November issue of Sleep.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about sleep.

Robert Preidt

Robert Preidt

Updated on November 22, 2009

Read this Next
About UsOur ProductsCustom SolutionsHow it’s SoldOur ResultsDeliveryContact UsBlogPrivacy PolicyFAQ