Sleep-deprived people take bigger risks with their wallets

By Shayna Brouker • Published: May 24th, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Too little shuteye can take a toll on your waistline and heart health. And as anyone who’s suffered sleepless nights can tell you, not getting enough Z’s can affect your ability to concentrate and make sound decisions. It can even wound your wallet. A new Duke University study found that sleep-deprived people overestimate their good luck when it comes to taking a gamble.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, the researchers discovered that sleep deprivation activated areas of the brain that evaluate positive outcomes, like getting more money. Sleep loss also seemed to stifle areas that assess negative consequences, like losing money.

Twenty-nine adults performed decision-making tasks involving money the morning after regular sleep and again after a night of little shuteye.

Sleep-deprived participants were more likely to make decisions that maximized monetary gain, such as gambling, rather than make choices that reduced loss.

The study demonstrates that sleep deprivation can affect not only alertness, but the way our brains assess economic value. Regardless of how frugal people are by day, a night of tossing and turning can make them a little less mindful of their money … much like what happens in casinos.

Gamblers are already betting against the odds in a casino where alcohol, flashing lights and chips substituting for real money can obscure decision-making. Add sleep deprivation to the mix and the slot machines become nearly inescapable.

Even if you’re not playing the craps table in Vegas, the study raises questions about the effects of sleep deprivation on those who often make high-stakes decisions on little slumber, like doctors and soldiers.

But whatever tough decisions you face, don’t lose any shuteye over it. The choice to “just sleep on it” could be the best for both you … and your wallet.