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Don’t rely on caffeine to fight sleep deprivation, experts warn

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Don’t rely on caffeine to fight sleep deprivation after a rough night, experts have warned.

Researchers from Michigan State University assessed just how effective caffeine is at counteracting the negative effects of no sleep on cognitive function and determined that knocking back the coffee can only help somewhat.

More than 275 participants were asked to complete a simple attention task after a night of sleep deprivation, as well as a ‘placekeeping’ task that required them to complete a series of tasks in a specific order without skipping or repeating steps.

Most were able to successfully achieve the simple task after having caffeine, but it had little effect on participants’ performance during the placekeeping task.

“Caffeine may improve the ability to stay awake and attend to a task, but it doesn’t do much to prevent the sort of procedural errors that can cause things like medical mistakes and car accidents,” study leader Kimberly Fenn explained.

Sleep deprivation has seen an increase during the Covid-19 pandemic, and Fenn said that consistently lacking sleep will have a serious effect on a person’s cognitive skills, which could impact their job.

“Although people may feel as if they can combat sleep deprivation with caffeine, their performance on higher-level tasks will likely still be impaired. This is one of the reasons why sleep deprivation can be so dangerous,” she warned.

“If we had found that caffeine significantly reduced procedural errors under conditions of sleep deprivation, this would have broad implications for individuals who must perform high stakes procedures with insufficient sleep, like surgeons, pilots and police officers,” Fenn added.

CoverFitness via Reuters