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J Sleep Res. 2007 Sep;16(3):245-52.

The effects of one night of sleep deprivation on known-risk and ambiguous-risk decisions.

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SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology, VA San Diego Healthcare System, San Diego, CA, USA.


Sleep deprivation has been shown to alter decision-making abilities. The majority of research has utilized fairly complex tasks with the goal of emulating 'real-life' scenarios. Here, we use a Lottery Choice Task (LCT) which assesses risk and ambiguity preference for both decisions involving potential gains and those involving potential losses. We hypothesized that one night of sleep deprivation would make subjects more risk seeking in both gains and losses. Both a control group and an experimental group took the LCT on two consecutive days, with an intervening night of either sleep or sleep deprivation. The control group demonstrated that there was no effect of repeated administration of the LCT. For the experimental group, results showed significant interactions of night (normal sleep versus total sleep deprivation, TSD) by frame (gains versus losses), which demonstrate that following as little as 23 h of TSD, the prototypical response to decisions involving risk is altered. Following TSD, subjects were willing to take more risk than they ordinarily would when they were considering a gain, but less risk than they ordinarily would when they were considering a loss. For ambiguity preferences, there seems to be no direct effect of TSD. These findings suggest that, overall, risk preference is moderated by TSD, but whether an individual is willing to take more or less risk than when well-rested depends on whether the decision is framed in terms of gains or losses.

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