Large study warns sleep deprivation impacts every aspect of life

One of the largest sleep studies ever conducted has been published by researchers with Michigan State University's Sleep and Learning Lab. The team found that sleep deprivation is more dangerous than past research on the topic had found; it impacts every part of life, increasing the risk of wrecking one's car, messing up at work, struggling to maintain attention during class, and more.

'Sleep-deprived individuals need to exercise caution in absolutely everything that they do, and simply can't trust that they won't make costly errors,' Sleep and Learning Lab director Kimberly Fenn explained in a recent release from the university.

The study found that lack of adequate sleep impacts more than just one's ability to pay attention. Sleep-deprived individuals were found to be twice as likely to make placekeeping errors when compared to people who got enough sleep. As well, the sleepy individuals were also three times more likely to struggle with maintaining attention.

Placekeeping refers to one's ability to follow a procedure. When combined, these two negative effects may increase one's odds of making costly mistakes both in life and at work, sometimes with tragic outcomes. Examples include struggling to maintain attention while driving a car or to follow a procedure when performing a task with multiple steps, such as an exam conducted by a tired doctor.

Based on the research, which involved 138 participants, 77 of whom stayed awake all night, the error rate in both groups of people increased in the evening, but was 30-percent in the sleep-deprived group compared to 15-percent in the group that had gotten a night of sleep.

The researchers note that sleep deprivation may not impact tasks that can be performed on 'auto-pilot,' but ultimately has a negative impact across one's entire day.