HealthDay News–Sleep deprivation has more far-reaching effects on cognitive function than previously thought, according to a study published online Nov 20 in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

Michelle E. Stepan, from Michigan State University in East Lansing, and colleagues assessed the use of the Psychomotor Vigilance Task as a measure of attention and the UNRAVEL task as a measure of placekeeping, a higher-order process that involves memory operations and supports performance in a wide range of complex tasks, among 138 participants in either rested (61 individuals) or sleep-deprived (77 individuals) states.

The researchers found that total sleep deprivation impaired placekeeping generally and memory maintenance processes beyond the effect of a participant’s attentional state. After being interrupted, there was a 15% error rate at baseline, and the error rate spiked to about 30% for the sleep-deprived group the following morning, while the rested participants’ morning scores were similar to the previous evening baseline, Stepan said in a news release.

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“Our research showed that sleep deprivation doubles the odds of making placekeeping errors and triples the number of lapses in attention, which is startling,” a coauthor said in a statement. “Sleep-deprived individuals need to exercise caution in absolutely everything that they do, and simply can’t trust that they won’t make costly errors. Oftentimes–like when behind the wheel of a car–these errors can have tragic consequences.”

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