Researchers have found that a sound sleep not only has a positive effect on people's energy levels but can also facilitate and enhance their complex cognitive skills such as decision-making.
In one of the first studies of its kind, University of Massachusetts Amherst psychologist Rebecca Spencer and postdoctoral fellow Edward Pace-Schott investigated the effects of sleep on affect-guided decision-making, that is decisions on meaningful topics where subjects care about the outcome, in a group of 54 young adults.
They were taught to play a card game for rewards of play money in which wins and losses for various card decks mimic casino gambling.
Subjects who had a normal night's sleep as part of the study drew from decks that gave them the greatest winnings four times more often than those who spent the 12-hour break awake, and they better understood the underlying rules of the game.
Psychologists believe rule discovery is an often hidden yet key factor that is crucial to making sound decisions.
"There is something to be gained from taking a night to sleep on it when you're facing an important decision. We found that the fact that you slept makes your decisions better," said Spencer.
She and her colleagues believe this sleep benefit in making decisions may be due to changes in underlying emotional or cognitive processes.
"Our guess is that this enhanced effect on decision-making is something that depends on rapid-eye-movement or REM sleep, which is the creative period of our sleep cycle," said Spencer.
The results are published in the current early online issue of the Journal of Sleep Research.