FRIDAY, Aug. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Regardless of how tired people think they are, not getting enough sleep can negatively affect their ability to perform certain tasks, sleep researchers have found.
A lack of sleep can make people slower than they would be if they slept for the recommended full eight hours, according to the results of a study at Brigham and Women's Hospital, in Boston.
"Our team decided to look at how sleep might affect complex visual search tasks, because they are common in safety-sensitive activities, such as air-traffic control, baggage screening and monitoring power plant operations," the study's senior author, Jeanne Duffy, an associate neuroscientist at Brigham and Women's, explained in a hospital news release.
"These types of jobs involve processes that require repeated, quick memory encoding and retrieval of visual information, in combination with decision making about the information," Duffy pointed out.
Over the course of one month, the researchers examined data on visual search tasks completed by 12 participants.
During the first week, all participants were instructed to sleep 10 to 12 hours each night to ensure they had enough rest. In the three weeks that followed, the participants got only about five and a half hours of sleep each night. They also faced effects similar to chronic jet lag because their sleep was scheduled on a 28-hour cycle.
The study participants performed visual search tests on a computer. The tests were timed so the researchers could evaluate the participants' accuracy as well as their speed in identifying important information.
Although the participants' accuracy was fairly consistent, the study revealed that the longer the participants were awake, the more slowly they completed the tasks.
The participants were also slower between the hours of midnight and 6:00 a.m. than they were during the day.
The effects of the sleep loss got w
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