It’s commonly accepted as fact that college kids engage in risky behavior. Free to make their own decisions for the first time, living on their own in an environment of highly impressionable peers, and being tempted by vices they may have never tried before are all ingredients for a risky behavior recipe.
And according to new research from the University of California, Berkeley, pulling all-nighters to stay up and study may only add to the risk.
The researchers at UC Berkeley found that in addition to the side effects we are already aware that a sleepless night provides – crankiness and feeling moody – sleep deprivation also provides us with short-term euphoria, which can potentially lead to poor judgment and addictive behavior.
Researchers at UC Berkeley and Harvard Medical School studied the brains of healthy young adults and found that their pleasure circuitry got a big boost after a missed night's sleep. But that same neural pathway that stimulates feelings of euphoria, reward and motivation after a sleepless night may also lead to risky behavior, according to the study as reported by Science Daily.
Lead author of the study Matthew Walker, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkeley said, "When functioning correctly, the brain finds the sweet spot on the mood spectrum. But the sleep-deprived brain will swing to both extremes, neither of which is optimal for making wise decisions."
Walker emphasized the significance of this study as it relates to people in high-stress, high-stakes professions who may be making largely significant decisions at a time when they are sleep deprived.
"Based on this evidence, I'd be concerned by an emergency room doctor who's been up for 20 hours straight making rational decisions about my health," said Walker.
"We need to ensure that people making high-stakes decisions, from medical professionals to airline pilots to new parents, get enough sleep.”
For this specific study, the UC Berkeley researchers used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging to study the brains of 27 young adults, half of whom got a good night's rest and the other half of whom pulled an all-nighter.