Poor Sleep = Poor Decision Making

Recharge


Let’s say you had to have a simple operation, like having your appendix out, but there are only two surgeons on call to do this: one has just arrived at the hospital after a proper night’s sleep, the other has been at the hospital for over 24 hours. Which one, given the choice, would you choose?

It goes without saying that all of us would choose the doctor who hasn’t been up all night.

Yes, we all know poor sleep leads to temporary cognitive impairment, which can have catastrophic effects not only on decision-making, but also on the rest of your cognitive goals.

Sleep too little, and you’ll choose sugar and fat over healthy food. Plus you’ll probably choose not to exercise because you’re too tired. Your anxiety levels will go up while your desire to hang out with others will go down. And your cognitive function, both at work and at home, will be temporarily impaired. In other words, poor sleep effects all of the other risk factors for cognitive decline.

If you have a sleepless night or a night of poor sleep, please be aware of these pitfalls. Try not to gorge on sweets or skip your morning walk. Take a quick, restorative power nap of no more than 30-40 minutes, and keep up with your exercise goals. Don’t cancel that dinner plan with a friend. Above all, forgive yourself for messing up last night’s sleep and promise yourself to try to do better tonight. You’ve heard the expression, “One day at a time”? Try this on for size: “One night at a time.”

In other words? Every night is a new opportunity to do better.

References

  • Killgore, William D. S., Thomas J. Balkin, and Nancy J. Wesensten. (2006). Impaired Decision Making Following 49 H of Sleep Deprivation. Journal of Sleep Research 15 (1): 7–13. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2869.2006.00487.x