Lack of sleep slows down workers: study

August 29, 2012

Boston – Sleep-deprived workers may take longer to complete visual search tasks, according to research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

As defined by researchers, visual search tasks are common in jobs such as air-traffic control and baggage screening. They require repeated, quick memory encoding, information retrieval, and decision-making.

Researchers studied 12 participants, who performed computer tests after sleeping 10-12 hours for one week and then 5.5 hours for three weeks. When workers had less sleep, they took more time to identify information, although accuracy remained consistent, according to the study abstract.

Despite the significantly longer times, workers reported feeling only slightly more tired, which researchers said indicates that self-perceptions of tiredness may not indicate actual ability.

Their performance also was slower from midnight to 6 a.m. (Participants were not told the time during the study.)

The study was published online July 26 in the Journal of Vision.