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Short on sleep, brain optimistically favors long odds

Sleep deprivation can lead to plenty of unwise decisions, which researchers have long tied to flagging attention and short-term memory. But a new study shows how just one night of missed sleep can make people more likely to chase big gains while risking even larger losses—independent of their tapering attention spans.

The findings suggest that an all-night stint at the blackjack table or logged into an online poker game can be an extra gamble. These sleep-deprived players “are facing more than just the unfavorable odds,” Vinod Venkatraman, a graduate researcher in Duke’s psychology and neuroscience departments and a co-author of the new study, said in a prepared statement. “They are fighting a sleep-deprived brain’s tendency to implicitly seek gains while discounting the impact of potential losses.”

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