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April 04, 2021

Sleep deprived more prone to taking financial risks: Study

Casinos use lots of tricks – free booze, flashing lights and sounds, a mazelike design and using chips or electronic credits instead of cash – to inspire us to take risks with our money. 

Sleep It’s also no accident that casinos are open 24/7, that no one ever knows what time it is and that high rollers are encouraged to stay up all night long.

But most of all, they want us awake ... not alert, it seems, but awake. 

That’s because, according to a new paper out of Duke University, when it comes to evaluating the risks of winning or losing money, sleep-deprived individuals don't think straight and, aside from being grumpy and irritable, tend to be much more optimistic than their well-rested counterparts.

And there’s nothing quite like an optimistic gambler.

The researchers tested healthy adult volunteers with an average age of 22 using a computerized gambling task with real money on the line. For half the gambles they were given the option to increase the top prize or boost their overall chance of winning.

For the other half of games, they were given the chance to reduce the worst loss, or increase their odds of winning.

Interestingly, participants that were put through an all-nighter showed a strong propensity to focus on making money rather than avoiding the loss of it, while the well-rested were more balanced in their wagers.

"Even if someone makes very sound, risky financial decisions after a normal night of sleep, there is no guarantee that this same person will not expose you to untoward risk if sleep deprived," says Michael Chee, a professor at Duke’s Neurobehavioral Disorders Program.

It is also worth noting that the researchers feel that measures that are customarily used to combat fatigue and increase alertness may not make all that much difference. As such, hard-core players who guzzle coffee or 5-Hour Energy to play long sessions may not be helping themselves all that much.

Can you think straight without much sleep? Do you see yourself taking more risks as a result?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money


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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...