When, after a sleepless night, you feel like you can’t think, new study suggests you are not imagining things.
The mental consequences of sleep deprivation, the study found, were even more serious than previously believed.
The author of the study, Kimberly Fenn. She directs the Michigan State University Sleep and Learning Lab, said that, “Our research showed that sleep deprivation doubles the odds of making placekeeping errors and triples the number of lapses in attention, which is startling,”
Notwithstanding interruptions, the researchers define placekeeping as multiple steps to complete a project.
In a news release from the university, Fenn said. “Sleep-deprived individuals need to exercise caution in absolutely everything that they do, and simply can’t trust that they won’t make costly errors. Oftentimes, like when behind the wheel of a car, these errors can have tragic consequences,”
77 people stayed awake throughout the night in the research and 61 slept at home. A ability to perform two types of mental tasks was checked at night and the next morning again.
One check tested their time for reaction to a stimulus and the other assessed their ability for placekeeping.
Co-author Michelle Stepan, Michigan State’s doctoral candidate, said. “After being interrupted there was a 15% error rate in the evening and we saw that the error rate spiked to about 30% for the sleep-deprived group the following morning,” added that, “The rested participants’ morning scores were similar to the night before.”
The authors said this study is one of the largest of its kind and the first to assess the impact of placekeeping on sleep deprivation.
In the statement, Stepan said. “Our findings debunk a common theory that suggests that attention is the only cognitive function affected by sleep deprivation,”
She stated that. “Some sleep deprived people might be able to hold it together under routine tasks, like a doctor taking a patient’s vitals,” she added, “But our results suggest that completing an activity that requires following multiple steps, such as a doctor completing a medical procedure, is much riskier under conditions of sleep deprivation.”
Fenn said that. There are some tasks people can do on auto-pilot that may not be affected by a lack of sleep, but “sleep deprivation causes widespread deficits across all facets of life,”
The research was published online in the Experimental Psychology Journal on November 20:


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