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The detrimental effects of sleep loss on overall decision-making have been well described. Due to the complex nature of decisions, there remains a need for studies to identify specific mechanisms of decision-making vulnerable to sleep loss. Bayesian perspectives of decision-making posit judgement formation during decision-making occurs via a process of integrating knowledge gleaned from past experiences (priors) with new information from current observations (likelihoods). We investigated the effects of sleep loss on the ability to integrate multiple sources of information during decision-making by reporting results from two experiments: the first implementing both sleep restriction (SR) and total sleep deprivation (TSD) protocols, and the second implementing an SR protocol. In both experiments, participants were administered the Bayes Decisions Task on which optimal performance requires the integration of Bayesian prior and likelihood information. Participants in Experiment 1 showed reduced reliance on both information sources after SR, while no significant change was observed after TSD. Participants in Experiment 2 showed reduced reliance on likelihood after SR, especially during morning testing sessions. No accuracy-related impairments resulting from SR and TSD were observed in both experiments. Our findings show SR affects decision-making through altering the way individuals integrate available sources of information. Additionally, the ability to integrate information during SR may be influenced by time of day. Broadly, our findings carry implications for working professionals who are required to make high-stakes decisions on the job, yet consistently receive insufficient sleep due to work schedule demands.


This article was originally published in Journal of Sleep Research in 2024.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License