Get some sleep before you make important decisions


A cup of coffee might give you a jolt of energy in the morning, but nothing does more for sound decision-making like a night of restful dozing.

In case you needed yet another reason to catch more shut eye, results of a new study by University of Massachusetts Amherst psychologists suggests a key effect of sleep is facilitating and enhancing complex cognitive skills such as decision-making. Researchers investigated the effects of sleep on affect-guided decision-making—decisions on meaningful topics where subjects care about the outcome.

Subjects were taught to play a card game for rewards of play money in which wins and losses for various card decks mimicked casino gambling. Subjects who had a normal night’s sleep as part of the study drew from decks that gave them the greatest winnings four times more often than those who spent the 12-hour break awake, and they better understood the underlying rules of the game. Psychologists believe rule discovery is an often hidden yet key factor that’s crucial to making sound decisions.

Researchers say there’s something to be gained from taking a night to sleep on it when you’re facing an important decision. They found that sleeping on it makes your decisions better. This role of sleep in everyday life is accepted as common wisdom, but it hasn’t been well characterized by science until now. The researchers say sleep benefits the decision-making process due to changes in underlying emotional or cognitive processes.

Have a big surgery or important team meeting tomorrow? Better hit the sack early tonight.

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Angela Elia, BS, LVT, CVT, VTS (ECC)
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