WSU study to look at sleep loss and impact on poor decision-making

Washington State University will spend $1.7 million to study the link between sleep loss and how it affects the decision-making process.

The study, run by the Sleep and Performance Research Center, will aim to reduce decision-making errors that contribute to failed military missions, industrial accidents, workplace injuries and financial losses, according to Hans Van Dongen, a research professor at WSU.

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“Sleep loss makes people very susceptible to poor decision-making, especially in dynamically changing environments such as military operations, emergency response scenarios and volatile financial markets,” he said in a release.

Previous WSU studies showed sleep loss affects the cognitive process in different ways. A release from the university mentions how working memory was relatively unaffected by sleep deprivation, but sustained attention really suffered when people are tired.

During this study, 60 participants will stay awake for 38 hours. Half of them will get cognitive flexibility training and the other half will not. An additional 30 participants will form a control group that will get the cognitive flexibility training, but will get to sleep a normal amount.

According to a WSU release, throughout the experiment participants will complete performance tasks online designed to measure cognitive functioning in high-pace, complex situations.

Funding for the study comes from the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, which is a partnership between the U.S. Congress, military, and public to fund groundbreaking, high-impact medical research.