Deprivation of sleep could affect your judgment, suggests a new study.
Earlier studies have shown that it can adversely affect brain function. Now William Killgore and colleagues at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Maryland, US, studied 26 healthy adults, all of whom were active-duty military personnel.
The researchers found that sleep deprivation has a particularly debilitating effect on decision-making processes that depend heavily on emotion, said the online edition of New Scientist.
"When people go for more than 24 hours without sleep there are dramatic decreases in brain activity in the prefrontal cortex [the area of the brain involved in processing emotions and decision-making]," says Killgore. "It basically goes to sleep."
Sleep deprived participants also showed slight shifts in what they deemed appropriate actions compared to when they were well rested. The changes were more pronounced in individuals who scored lower in "emotional intelligence" tests.
Killgore believes that those with a lower emotional capacity to begin with may have less resistance to the affects of sleep deprivation.
The findings could have implications for people in positions of responsibility, whose decisions often have life or death consequences, such as overworked medical professionals and sleep-deprived soldiers.
"We don't want tired irritable soldiers making bad decisions that endanger themselves or others that are not a threat to them. Nor do we want health care providers who are unable to make quick medical decisions on behalf of their patients," the researchers say.
Researchers, however, note that further research, including brain imaging, should be conducted as laboratory results do not always translate to real world situations.