Researchers at Michigan State University conducted the largest experimentally controlled study on sleep deprivation to date, revealing just how detrimental operating without sleep can be in everything from bakers adding too much salt to cookies to surgeons botching surgeries.
While sleep deprivation research isn't new, the level at which distractions hinder sleep-deprived persons' memories and challenge them from successfully completing tasks was not clear until MSU's team quantified the impact.
"If you look at mistakes and accidents in surgery, public transportation and even operating nuclear power plants, lack of sleep is one of the primary reasons for human error," said Kimberly Fenn, associate professor of psychology and director of the MSU Sleep and Learning Lab. "There are many people in critical professions who are sleep-deprived. Research has found that nearly one-quarter of the people with procedure-heavy jobs have fallen asleep on the job."