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Making Important Decisions When Sleepy Like Rolling Dice

How sleep helps us make better decisions


Putting off an important decision until you’ve had a chance to think it through (instead of relying on impulse) has always been a good idea. “Let me sleep on it and get back to you tomorrow” sums this up nicely.

Now, it turns out, there is evidence that it’s not just the time for reflection and consideration that’s important in this process, but the sleep itself.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital recently found that people who were sleep deprived performed less well on a standardized test simulating real-life decision making known as the Iowa Gambling Test than they had at baseline when they were well rested. Even when given stimulants such as caffeine or amphetamines, the ability of the participants to make good decisions only returned to baseline after they had recovery sleep.

So next time you know you’re going to have to make an important decision, such as buying a car, or entering into negotiations at work, or even going out to dinner on Valentine’s day when a sparkling diamond ring might appear between desserts and coffee, try hard to get a good night’s sleep the night before.




Dennis Rosen, M.D.

Learn how to help your child get a great night’s sleep with my new book:

The Harvard Medical School Guide to Successful Sleep Strategies for Kids: Helping Your Child Sleep Well and Wake Up With a Smile!




Dirty Little Secrets