Caffeine may prevent risk taking after sleep deprivation

June 12th, 2009 - 4:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, June 12 (IANS) A dose of caffeine may prevent increased risk taking that occurs after several nights of total sleep deprivation, according to the latest research.
Results suggest that despite extreme sleep deprivation, subjects who consumed caffeine did not exhibit increased risky behaviour on the Balloon Analog Risk Task (BART), a computerized measure of impulsive risk-taking.

According to William Killgore, principal study investigator and research psychologist at Harvard Medical School, sleep deprivation may not have a simple linear effect on risk taking, but there may be a ‘breaking point’ during which a person may show a drastic reduction in their ability to control or inhibit behaviour. In this study, caffeine appeared to protect against that breaking point.

“People who were awake for three days straight became more impulsive and acted with less regard for consequences. However, if they had consumed caffeine each night (about the equivalent of 1-2 cups of coffee every two hours from just after midnight till dawn), they showed no increase in risky behaviour” said Killgore.

Though this study looked at the most extreme range of sleep deprivation and most people may not experience such effects under normal circumstances, results from a previous study have shown that those who were constantly restricted to three hours of sleep per night for a week showed an increase in risk-taking behaviour.

Findings of this study were presented at SLEEP 2009, the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.

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