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Study: Sleep deprivation can have ‘dire consequences’ for everyone

When sleep-deprived, “Individuals working critical jobs may put themselves and [others] at risk,” one researcher said

EAST LANSING, Mich. — A new study from Michigan State University reveals people who work “critical jobs” while sleep-deprived may be putting themselves and others at risk more than previously thought, MSUToday reported.

The study specifically examined “the level at which distractions hinder sleep-deprived persons’ memories and challenge them from successfully completing tasks,” according to Kimberly Fenn, associate professor of psychology and director of the MSU Sleep and Learning Lab.

Fenn and her research team asked 234 people to work on a sequence-based procedure that required following steps in order. Participants were periodically interrupted and had to find their place in the steps again each time. At midnight, half of the groups were allowed to sleep while the other half stayed up all night.

Fenn published her findings in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Her team found that sleep-deprived people were much more likely to make mistakes during the task than people who were well-rested.

“All participants met performance criteria in the evening, but roughly 15 percent of participants in the sleep-deprived group failed in the morning, compared to 1 percent of those who slept,” she told MSUToday. “Furthermore, sleep-deprived participants not only showed more errors than those who slept but also showed a progressive increase in errors associated with memory as they performed the task.”

“Operating with reduced cognitive capacity has wide-ranging effects,” Fenn said. “Individuals working critical jobs may put themselves and other members of society at risk because of sleep deprivation. It simply cannot be overlooked.”