Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Risk taking by the sleep deprived


Sleep deprivation alters risk taking is what the 24th Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies being held in San Antonio was told this week.
Generally, argued Kaur S, McKenna BS, Dickinson DL and Drummond SP in their conference paper “Gender Differences in the Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Risky Decision”, individuals take more risk while sleep deprived.
Men, they found in their tests, were risk avoiding after being well rested (six nights with nine hours in bed), and they became risk seeking after partial sleep deprivation where they were limited to four hours in bed per night.
Kevin Rudd, it seems to me, would know what these American academics are on about. The evidence of his affliction to partial sleep deprivation has been provided by his wife and comments by members of his staff. Three hours in the cot a night is apparently the norm. Then there are occasions like those in Stockholm where, reports David Marr in his just published essay in The Monthly, the Prime Minister had only one hours shut eye in 40. Not that such a long spell without lying down encourages even riskier behaviour. The academics report that risk preference was not affected by total sleep deprivation.
The danger for a person who is intoxicated, or acutely sleep deprived, is that such a person is quite poor at evaluating his or her own readiness to perform say Messrs Tongo OO, Bradley G, Murphy PJ, Campbell SS of the Laboratory of Human Chronobiology, Weill Medical College of Cornell University in another conference paper.
In contrast, when one is extremely sleepy, even if self-ratings of sleepiness are accurate, evaluations of one’s performance deficits do not parallel either sleepiness ratings or actual performance. “It could be argued,” they conclude, “that this last scenario, in which a sleepy person knows he or she is sleepy, but does not believe that this will negatively impact performance, may be the most critical to address.”
I’m sure there is a lesson for Mr Rudd in there somewhere. Perhaps his promise to work even harder now that the polls show him slipping behind means working harder at getting a good night’s sleep
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