People ages 18 to 24 are more likely to undertake risky activities, such as having unprotected sex, driving under the influence, and taking drugs when sleep-deficient, finds a study from Australia. “The study found that when young people had three to four hours less sleep than usual, they had slower reaction times, were moodier and more impulsive,” says author Kalina Rossa, a sleep researcher with Queensland University of Technology’s Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety-Queensland, in a release. “If you put that into a Schoolies’ context where young people who are going to be sleep-deprived as well as possibly under the influence of alcohol—it is really a double whammy—the risks are even higher.” Rossa said while everyone needed a good night’s sleep, young people might be particularly vulnerable because the decision making part of the brain did not fully develop until the age of 25, and this part was affected by the negative effects of sleep loss. “What this means is that the part of the brain that is responsible for problem solving and impulse control changes when we haven’t gotten enough sleep, and because young people are still developing in this area, a lack of sleep may cause them to make poor choices,” she says.
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