Sleep deprivation affects cognitive function dangerously


A recent sleep study by Michigan State University’s (MSU) Sleep and Learning Lab has uncovered a greater impact of sleep deprivation on cognitive function than thought previously. 

Psychology Professor Kimberly Fenn said that sleep deprivation doubles the odds of place keeping errors and nearly triples the number of lapses in attention. Place keeping is simply a person’s ability to follow and maintain attention through a task, despite potential interruptions, similar to a doctor completing a multi-step medical procedure, report agencies. 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 which can lead to tragic consequences.”

The researchers had some 130 people to participate in an overnight sleep assessment, where 77 stayed awake all night while others went home to sleep. Participants first took two separate cognitive tasks to measure their reaction time to a stimulus and their ability to maintain their place in a series of steps; and then repeated both tasks in the morning to see how sleep-deprivation affected their performance.

MSU doctoral candidate Michelle Stepan noted a 30% spike in error rate for the sleep-deprived participants’ the following morning, but the rested participants’ morning scores were similar to the night before.

With this newfound information, Fenn hopes that people will acknowledge the potential dangers of sleep deprivation, “There are routine tasks people can do that may not be affected by a lack of sleep. However, sleep deprivation causes widespread risks across all facets of life.”