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The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Decision Making: Why High-Stress Jobs Should Pay Attention

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The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Decision Making: Why High-Stress Jobs Should Pay Attention

The Importance of Sleep on Decision Making and Well-Being

A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Ottawa and the University of Pennsylvania has shed light on the impact of sleep deprivation on decision making. The study found that a 24-hour period of sleep deprivation significantly affected the decision-making process, especially among individuals in high-stress professions such as politicians, police, military, and rescue personnel.

The researchers observed that lack of sleep has a dampening effect on neural responses to the outcomes of decisions. This means that sleep-deprived individuals tend to exhibit fewer positive emotions in response to winning outcomes and fewer negative emotions when faced with losses. According to Zhuo Fang, a scientist at the Department of Psychology of the Faculty of Social Sciences, the emotional impact of sleep loss is often overlooked, but it can significantly affect cognitive function, attention, and efficiency.

The study, which evaluated the impact of one night of total sleep deprivation in 56 healthy adults, found that acute sleep loss may have a buffering effect on neural responses to decision outcomes during risk-taking. Sleep deprivation was also found to alter the relationship between neural response and risk behavior, potentially leading to an altered perception of risk taking.

While previous studies have illustrated the broad effects of sleep deprivation on various brain and cognitive functions, this study specifically addresses the impact of sleep deprivation on decision making. According to Fang, the results underscore the importance of maintaining adequate sleep and highlight the need for individuals to refrain from making important decisions when experiencing chronic or acute sleep deprivation.

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The researchers emphasized the importance of specialized training or fatigue risk management for individuals in professions where decision makers must operate with cumulative sleep loss. Overall, the study provides valuable insights into the impact of sleep on cognitive performance, well-being, and decision making in high-stress professions.

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