Few sleep deprivation (SD) studies involve realism or high-level decision making, factors relevant to managers, military commanders, and so forth, who are undergoing prolonged work during crises. Instead, research has favored simple tasks sensitive to SD mostly because of their dull monotony. In contrast, complex rule-based, convergent, and logical tasks are unaffected by short-term SD, seemingly because of heightened participant interest and compensatory effort. However, recent findings show that despite this effort, SD still impairs decision making involving the unexpected, innovation, revising plans, competing distraction, and effective communication. Decision-making models developed outside SD provide useful perspectives on these latter effects, as does a neuropsychological explanation of sleep function. SD presents particular difficulties for sleep-deprived decision makers who require these latter skills during emergency situations.