Your Sleepy Brain is Overly Positive

Decision-making when sleep deprived isn't such a good idea

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Looking at images of the brain, Duke University researchers found that people who were sleep deprived had increased brain activity in the parts of the brain that process positive outcomes.

At the same time, the same sleep-deprived individuals had decreased brain activity in the brain regions that assess negative outcomes.

dailyRx Insight: When you don't get enough sleep, your brain tends to see things with rose-colored glasses and ignores the negative consequences of your actions. 

For their study, Michael Chee, M.D., a professor at the Neurobehavioral Disorders Program at Duke-NUS in Singapore, and colleagues studied how sleep deprivation might impact decision making in 29 healthy volunteers.

The study's subjects were told to perform a series of economic decision-making tasks, once following a night of normal sleep and once after a night of sleep deprivation.

Chee and colleagues found that, when deprived of sleep, subjects tended to make choices that emphasized monetary gain, while also making fewer choices to reduce loss.

In addition to it's negative impact on decision making, sleep deprivation can also affect attention and memory. With sleep deprivation becoming increasingly common, Chee says that it is important for society deal with all of the problems associated with not getting enough sleep.

Over 50 million American adults have chronic sleep and wakefulness disorders. There are many different kinds of sleep disorders such as insomnia, narcolepsy and sleep apnea.
Treatments for sleep disorders generally can be grouped into four categories: behavioral treatments, rehabilitation management, medications and other somatic treatments. None of these general approaches is sufficient for all patients with sleep disorders. Common medications for insomnia include benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Ativan), sedatives (Ambien, Sonata, Lunesta), and antidepressants (Desyrel, Remeron). Medications for narcolepsy nclude stimulants like modafinil (Provigil), methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta), and armodafinil (Nuvigil). Diagnosis is often made by the patient going to a sleep lab, where breathing, heart rate, and brain activity is measured while the patient sleeps at the facility.

The study appears in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 10, 2011
Last Updated:
March 11, 2011