Effects of sleep deprivation on impulsive behaviors in men and women

Physiol Behav. 2007 Aug 15;91(5):579-87. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2007.03.020. Epub 2007 Mar 31.


The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of sleep deprivation on impulsive behavior. Patients with impulse control disorders often report sleep problems, and sleep deprivation even in healthy individuals impairs cognition, decision-making, and perhaps impulse control. To characterize the effects of sleep loss on specific forms of impulsive behavior, we tested the effects of overnight, monitored sleep deprivation on measures of impulsivity and cognition in healthy volunteers. Ten men and ten women completed two 24 h sessions in random order, in which they were either allowed to sleep normally or remained awake all night. At 8:30 am and 6:15 pm on the day after sleep or no sleep, participants were tested on the Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART), the Experiential Discounting Task, the Adjusting Amount Delay and Probability Discounting Task, and the Stop Task. Participants also completed mood questionnaires and the Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Matrix (ANAM) throughout the course of the day. Sleep deprivation did not affect most of the measures of impulsive behavior. However, on the BART, sleep deprivation decreased risk taking in women, but not men. Sleep deprivation produced expected increases in subjective fatigue, and impaired performance on measures of attention and cognitive efficiency on the ANAM. The results indicate that sleep deprivation does not specifically increase impulsive behaviors but may differentially affect risk taking in men and women.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Games, Experimental
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / complications
  • Impulsive Behavior / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Reference Values
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sleep Deprivation / complications
  • Sleep Deprivation / psychology*