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Chronic lack of sleep increases the willingness to take risks
Sleep disorders and lack of stroke have already been associated with a variety of health problems, with the focus on the brain and the cardiovascular system, in addition to the reduced concentration and performance. Scientists at the University of Zurich have now discovered another effect of chronic sleep deprivation. "Those affected are more risky without being aware of it," reports the University of Zurich.
If people do not get enough sleep over a long period of time or are regularly disturbed during sleep, this has an extremely adverse effect on their health. The behavior of those affected is apparently influenced, too, because according to a recent study by the University of Zurich and the University Hospital Zurich they show a significantly higher risk tolerance. However, those affected are not aware of this increased willingness to take risks.
Many people sleep too little
According to the researchers, the natural need for sleep in young adults averages around nine hours a day and in older adults it is only around 7.5 hours a day. However, many people in western societies would sleep significantly less. According to studies, around a third of respondents from industrialized countries said that sleep times were too short. However, if, for example, young adults sleep less than eight hours a night, this leads to increased attention deficits, which could have significant negative consequences.
Increasing risk appetite for lack of sleep
According to the Zurich scientists, they have now "identified a further critical consequence of a chronic lack of sleep." Thus, the willingness to take risks increases with the sleep deficit. As part of their study, the researchers examined the risk behavior of 14 healthy male students aged 18 to 28. "Twice a day, they had to decide whether to receive a smaller amount of money safely or a larger amount of money with a certain probability," said the University of Zurich. The more risky their decision, the higher the potential winnings - but also the risk of going empty-handed.
In the trials, it became clear that when students slept only five hours a night for a week, they behaved clearly riskier compared to their behavior with a normal sleep duration of about eight hours. A single night without sleep had no impact on risk appetite, but during a week with reduced sleep duration, 11 out of 14 study participants were significantly more risky, the scientists report.
Self-assessment of risk behavior unchanged
According to the researchers, it was also of concern that the students assessed their risk behavior in the same way as under regular sleeping conditions. "So we don't even notice that we act more riskily if we lack sleep," emphasizes Christian Baumann, Professor of Neurology at the University Hospital Zurich. For the first time in the current study, it was also proven that a low depth of sleep in the right prefrontal cortex is directly related to increased risk behavior. This area of the cerebral cortex had previously been associated with risk behavior. "We assume that behavioral changes occur to a certain extent due to anatomical and functional reasons, since the right prefrontal cortex cannot recover sufficiently in the event of chronic sleep deprivation," said Baumann.
The study authors come to the conclusion that all people should strive for a sufficient amount of sleep and that this must apply particularly to leaders in politics and business who have to make far-reaching decisions every day. (fp)