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Pulling an all-nighter can lead to unsafe decisions: study

Photo: FG Trade/iStockphoto

Ottawa, Ontario — Just 24 hours of sleep deprivation can significantly impact decision-making processes and may result in risky choices, researchers caution.

A team from the University of Ottawa and the University of Pennsylvania asked 56 healthy people ages 21-55 to take part in a five-day, four-night sleep deprivation experiment that used brain imaging and behavior observations. 

They found that 24 hours of sleep deprivation disrupted the relationship between the nervous system’s response and participants’ risk-taking behavior, including “diminished negative emotions when faced with losses.” This may alter people’s perception of risk-taking. 

The researchers advise anyone who’s sleep deprived not to partake in any important decisions the next day.

For specific professions in which someone who’s making decisions is required to operate under accumulated sleep loss, such as first responders and those in the military, the researchers suggest that specialized training or fatigue risk management “might be necessary to enable them to handle such situations effectively.”

The study was published online in the journal Pyschophysiology.

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