SRxA Word on Health bloggers know just how hard pharmaceutical and business execs work. The deadlines, the late nights, the weekends and of course, the crazy travel schedules. With all this sleep deprivation you’d think we’d all be forgiven the occasional lapse of judgment.
Research conducted at Washington State University into the effects of sleep deprivation on executive functioning and published in the January 2010 issue of the journal Sleep has yielded surprising results.
The study looked at 23 subjects, who spent 6.5 consecutive days in a controlled laboratory environment. One group was kept awake for two consecutive nights, while the other was on a normal sleep schedule.
Three times during the experiment, subjects were asked to complete a series of executive tasks that measured working memory, scanning efficiency, resistance to proactive interference and verbal fluency.
The research psychologists found that working memory -a key element of executive functioning- was essentially unaffected by as much as 51 hours of total sleep deprivation. Instead, they saw a degradation of non-executive components such as information intake.
Follow-up studies will examine how distinct components of decision making are affected by sleep deprivation and how this influences the overall decision-making. Ultimately, this may lead to development of interventions that will improve decision-making in emergency responders, police officers, and military personnel for whom getting enough sleep is often not an option.