Research Uncovers The Dangers Of Sleep Deprivation

Burning the candle at both ends is costly in ways you might not realize

Dr. Deanna Lites
October 02, 2018 - 5:31 pm

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DETROIT (WWJ) - Burning the candle at both ends can be costly in ways you might not realize.

A recent study from Michigan State University shows how detrimental a lack of sleep can be when it comes to completing tasks reports WWJ Health reporter Dr. Deanna Lites.

MSU researcher Kimberly Fenn says while sleep deprivation research isn’t new, the level at which distractions hinder sleep-deprived persons’ memories and challenge them from successfully completing tasks was not clear until MSU’s team quantified the impact.

Researchers had 234 study participants follow a series of tasks in a lab.

Then half of the people were sent home to sleep while the others stayed up all night.

The next morning everyone met to do the series of tasks again. The sleep-deprived group experienced a great deal of difficulty remembering where they were in the sequence during interruptions.
She says operating without sleep can be detrimental in everything from bakers missing a step and adding too much salt to cookies to surgeons botching surgeries.

“If you look at mistakes and accidents in surgery, public transportation and even operating nuclear power plants, lack of sleep is one of the primary reasons for human error,” said Kimberly Fenn, associate professor of psychology and director of the MSU Sleep and Learning Lab. “There are many people in critical professions who are sleep-deprived. Research has found that nearly one-quarter of the people with procedure-heavy jobs have fallen asleep on the job.”

Some basic errors, such as adding salt twice to a recipe, might not be so serious. However, some of the world’s greatest human-caused catastrophes – like Chernobyl, the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the Challenger explosion – along with daily train and car accidents have sleep deprivation at least partially to blame, she said.

“Our research suggests that sleep-deprived people shouldn’t perform tasks in which they are interrupted – or, only perform them for short periods.”

Fenn says she's now studying interventions like caffeine and napping to see how they can help offset the negative effects of sleep deprivation.