How much does not getting your sleep affect you?

Imagine the driver in front of you jerking the wheel at the last moment avoiding disaster during a late night drive and is spinning out of control right for you and the driver that nearly collides with you.  How quick are your reflexes.   Sleep-deprived people may put themselves and others at risk when they need to make split-second decisions, U.S. researchers have found.

In a  study, which included 49 U.S. military cadets, the University of Texas looked at how sleep deprivation affected information-integration, a process that relies heavily on instantaneous, gut-feeling decisions.

The ability to make split-second decisions is crucial in a number of  other high-pressure professions, including firefighters and police officers, the study authors noted.

The cadets performed information-integration tasks twice — once when they were well-rested and once while they were sleep-deprived. The results showed that moderate sleep deprivation can cause an overall immediate loss of information-integration thought processes.

Accuracy on the information-integration tasks declined by 2.4 percent (73.1 percent to 70.7 percent) when cadets were sleep-deprived, and improved by 4.3 percent (74 percent to 78.3 percent) when they were well-rested, the researchers found.

So make sure that you get your sleep before traveling this holiday season so you can avoid the other guy on the road who is sleep deprived!

The study was published in the November issue of Sleep.

SOURCE: University of Texas at Austin, news release, Nov. 16, 2009.

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