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The Relationship Between Lack of Sleep and Risky Behavior

Posted September 09, 2017 12:00 PM by M-ReeD
Pathfinder Tags: behavior sleep

According to a study that will be surprising to…well…no one, we aren’t getting enough sleep. Whether this lack of sleep is work–related or due to the fact that we cannot tear ourselves away from distracting technology, we simply are not getting the recommended amount.

Doesn’t seem like a big deal, right?

It can be, according to researchers from the University of Zurich who have determined that this lack of sleep can lead to risky behaviors (imagine a long-haul truck driver forgoing sleep as a challenge to drive across the country in a shorter amount of time).

The study, which observed four men between the ages of 18 and 28 years old, determined that riskier behaviors occurred in the weeks with fewer hours of sleep than in those weeks where the participants slept for at least eight hours a night.

According to the researchers, risky behavior was measured in terms of participants’ selecting between a scenario where they received an amount of money tied to a specific outcome versus a scenario where they were paid a lower sum regardless of the outcome.

Those with fewer hours of sleep, unsurprisingly, selected the offer with the promise of more money than the scenario offering the guaranteed amount.

So while risky behavior may increase in relation to lack of sleep, it seems an entirely separate study is necessary to define risky behavior. After all, one man’s long haul sleepless trip across the country might be another man’s sleep-deprived trip to the store without a shopping list.

Do you take more risks in relation to the amount of sleep you get?

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#1

Re: The Relationship Between Lack of Sleep and Risky Behavior

09/09/2017 8:44 PM

Maybe people that do risky things lay awake nights thinking about what might have happened. Correlation might imply causation in either direction.

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#3
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Re: The Relationship Between Lack of Sleep and Risky Behavior

09/09/2017 8:52 PM

That would be synergy

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#11
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Re: The Relationship Between Lack of Sleep and Risky Behavior

09/13/2017 12:36 PM

That would be synergy

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#12
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Re: The Relationship Between Lack of Sleep and Risky Behavior

09/14/2017 4:46 PM

You mean researchers could succumb to correlational bias? Must be they didn't get enough sleep that week.

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#2

Re: The Relationship Between Lack of Sleep and Risky Behavior

09/09/2017 8:52 PM

Driving comes, to mind... Very risky if you drive with lack,of sleep

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Re: The Relationship Between Lack of Sleep and Risky Behavior

09/14/2017 4:48 PM

I recall an episode of driving through from SLC, Utah to Sunnyvale, CA once, with only a two-hour nap, then a 30 minute roadside nap. Road hypnosis (with "blindly" following the tail lights in front of you) is very scary indeed. Not only that, it was during descent off Donner Pass with snow present.

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#4

Re: The Relationship Between Lack of Sleep and Risky Behavior

09/10/2017 12:55 PM

I would posit that many decisions considered risky could be traced back to lack of thought/planning, maybe as a result of decision fatigue. It follows that one could succumb to decision fatigue easier/faster if you're overall tired, perhaps due to a lack of sleep, to begin with. It seems that this study is suggesting that there is some sort of preference towards riskiness/higher payoff when you haven't slept enough. I would argue that a person deprived of sleep isn't interested in preference, but just wants to make a decision quicker, and (at least my experience has taught me) quick/rash decisions carry and inherent risk.

Of course, fatigue is not the only symptom of inadequate sleep. So maybe they're on to something...

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#5

Re: The Relationship Between Lack of Sleep and Risky Behavior

09/10/2017 8:03 PM

This ties directly into a story about vampires I heard on the radio today.

It said that they are only involved in devious behavior because the sale of (human) blood is illegal so they have to do illegal and often terrible things in order to get it.

Okay it doesn't tie it all, but I had to share because it was so stupid!

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#9
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Re: The Relationship Between Lack of Sleep and Risky Behavior

09/11/2017 11:48 AM

Much of a vampire problem in Chicago?

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#6

Re: The Relationship Between Lack of Sleep and Risky Behavior

09/10/2017 11:37 PM

This sounds like a thesis project for an individual with very little scientific background, very little imagination, and a thesis advisor who couldn't care less about his/her students.

Only 4 subjects! ... and a financial definition of "risky behavior". That's hardly a "study"!

If they had analyzed dash cam videos of 30 to 50 long-haul drivers, on multiple trips taken with and without sufficient sleep, then I'd place some credence in the study.

I suspect that their initial premise is probably correct: that people with inadequate sleep do make riskier decisions, but this is hardly proof thereof.

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#8
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Re: The Relationship Between Lack of Sleep and Risky Behavior

09/11/2017 11:23 AM

True, a poorly designed "study" to prove the obvious...

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#7

Re: The Relationship Between Lack of Sleep and Risky Behavior

09/11/2017 12:57 AM

Who determined the recommended amount of sleep? I usually have 6hours or so, and maybe 8once or twice at the weekend. The other four in the house tend to sleep much longer, but take longer to make any decisions. In a speed decision test, like during driving, who would be riskier?

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#10
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Re: The Relationship Between Lack of Sleep and Risky Behavior

09/11/2017 12:27 PM

I'm sure there is a wide variation between individuals in the appropriate amount of sleep, just like there is wide variation in so many other characteristics. Now how much of the variation is due to physiology versus how much is due to training, habit etc. could be worthy of study.

I can handle one night with only 6 hours of sleep, but I definitely could not keep it up, and never could! One of the things that got me off to a good start my freshman year in college was the fact that I had a single room with no roommate, so I could go to sleep around 9PM, without the lights and noise of others staying up 'till 10 or 11 or later.

As I age, now I commonly add an afternoon nap to my 8 hours of nighttime sleep.

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#14

Re: The Relationship Between Lack of Sleep and Risky Behavior

09/17/2017 12:58 PM

In my opinion, it's not a lack of sleep that is the problem, but the lack of REST. The sleep cycle is around 90 minutes in which upon waking, one usually feels ready to go. I heard of an experiment where a person would sit in a chair and hold a key between two fingers. When he dozed off, his grip on the key would relax and the key would drop, making a sound that would awaken him. He would be wide awake and alert. It would be repeated whenever the subject felt tired. The point of the experiment was; how much sleep does anyone really need. If I go to sleep and wake in 90 minutes, I find it hard to go back to sleep. I understand many highly intelligent and inventive people got by with little sleep; people like Nicola Tesla and Mozart are examples. Taking a "cat nap" once or twice a day may improve our productivity.

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#15
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Re: The Relationship Between Lack of Sleep and Risky Behavior

09/17/2017 1:47 PM

If you feel "ready to go" after 90 minutes of sleep, more power to you! NOT ME! (unless that 90 minutes was an extended afternoon nap)

And the described experiment would not be a fair test for me. I don't really sleep in any sitting position. Sure, I doze off for a bit when sitting, maybe even for an hour, but that's NOT sleeping in my dictionary. For me, true sleep requires a horizontal position and a cool, dark, quiet room.

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