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The Impact Of Sleep On Decision Making Skills Performance In Students

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The change in decision making skills performance due to different controlled conditions in both participants are observed using qualitative research method. An interview session has been held with the both participant that comprises of 2 steps. For step 1, observing how participant answering a set of multiple-choice question on decision making and her performance was evaluated based on the score. The task given consists of multiple-choice questions (MCQ) that required the participant to make choices among a given set of options in order to access their decision-making abilities. The second step is the interview session that asking about her sleep habit towards her attention and decision-making skills. The interview question in step 2 is as stated as below;

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  1. What time do you usually go to sleep?
  2. What time do you usually wake up in the morning?
  3. How often you sleep during the class?
  4. Do you find it is easy to wake up for morning class?
  5. What influence you to sleep late at night?
  6. Did you tend to sleep during the day time (i. e. , nap)?
  7. Do you think you have a good quality of sleep?
  8. Do you have difficulty to concentrate to the lecture?
  9. At what time you find you are sleepy or tired as a result of need for sleep?
  10. What do you think about your performance of the task given just now?

In this study, both participants are selected using purposive sampling method. The participant 1 is selected as the early sleeper due to the acknowledgement of her habit to sleep at around 10 pm almost every day. The result of the participant 1 in multiple choice questions is 5 out of 13 questions are true. The recorded time for the participant 1 to complete the task is 2 minutes. As for the question 1 and 2, participant 1 stated that she usually goes to sleep at around 2200 hours. After 8 hours and 30 minutes of sleep, she will get up at 0630 hours including the day of the interview session. The earliest that she had woke up is at 0400 hours. The participant 1 also admits that she had never sleep or being sleepy during the class despite the external factor such as the class environment. She added if the class that she attended was boring, she will find a way to refrain herself from yawning in order to avoid becoming sleepy in class. For example, she will read the lecture note for the other courses or taking notes during the class.

In the other hand, participant 1 affirms that it is hard to wake up in the morning due to the atmosphere in the morning such as the cool air that are very comfortable to continue the sleep. However, she added once she had got up from sleep and prepared herself to go to the morning class, the sleepy feel will automatically be vanished. To answer the question 5, the participant 1 confirms that she also had to sleep late at around 0000 hours sometimes. In her opinion, it is hard to resist sleeping late due to the assignment, group work and reading article as the nature of being university student. She also had experienced of sleeping late because of watching movie especially during the weekend. The answer for question 6 from participant 1 is that she usually had to take a nap during day time. She added the peak hours that she felt more tired is on 1200 hours before dhuhr or at 1630 hours depending on her activities for the day. For example, learning a course that involves excessive use of the brain or walking to many places for different class that required too much usage of energy from physical body.

The participant 1 express on she believes that she had a good quality sleep since she tends to sleep early and get enough rest for more than 8 hours per day on average. She added that the other reason why she confident of getting a good quality sleep is because she does not usually feel sleepy on the morning. However, she agrees to the question 7 which she is faced difficulty in concentrating and fully focus during the class as well. She emphasizes the reason as stated above such as during a very straight and boring lecture. In order to overcome the worse atmosphere of the class where other students tend to feel sleepy in that situation, she will look for another alternative to avoid become sleepy as well. In scale of 5 to 10 to prove her attention during the class, she chooses 5 marks. Participant 1 answered the question 9 by stating the time that she feels tired as a result of need for sleep was the time before dhuhr or after 1600 hours and at around 2200 hours at night. To answer the question 10, participant 1 admits that she had done her best to perform the task given before the interview. She also added that she takes times to think before answering certain question especially those that are hard to decide at that moment.

Meanwhile, the participant 2 is selected as bad sleeper due to her habit to sleep late at night which is around 1 am and above every day. Her results in multiple choice questions is 4 out of 13 questions are true. The recorded time for the participant 2 to complete the task is around 4-5 minutes. As for the question 1 and 2, she usually goes to sleep at around 0100 hours and above. Her average of sleep daily is around 4 hours and she tend to wake up late in the morning which is around 0700 hours and also always woke up at noon. However, she rarely tends to sleep in class because of she already used of sleeping late at night and become her habits. She also mentioned that she finds easy to wake up in the morning depends on the situations. For example, if she has class at 8 am in the morning, she will get early to go to class. But she will wake up late if there is no class and this is happened due to her mindset and bad management of sleep time.

As for question 5, the factors that influenced her to have sleep deprived is because of always using phone at night before sleep. During day time, she also tends to feel tired or sleepy after lunch hours and above. From the results, she agreed that she has difficulty to concentrate in the class on the next day. From scale of 1 to 10, she chooses 4 to prove her attention during class. This is because she feels a little bit sleep and tired in class and it causes her to feel bored in class. So, to eliminate her boredom in class, she will play with her phone or talking with her friends. In addition, the participant herself are aware of not having a good quality of sleep due to her low performance of concentration in class and excessive amount of sleep during daytime. To answer the question 10, which is the last question in this interview, participant 2 admits that she is a little bit careless in answering those questions. She also takes a longer time to complete the task because of confusion happened while answering the questions. This is due to the fact that she wakes up late in the morning during the interview processes, which is 15 minutes before 8 am. As a result, she makes a choice without thinking properly and causes her to have lower cognitive function.


Decision making task can become difficult at certain time. It is a critical value that should be nurtured in student’s skills from the early age because this skill acts as the platform to express ourselves. According to Sulaiman, Muniyan, Madhvan, Hassan and Abdul Rahim (2017), the ability to perform cognitive processes by using the knowledge, skills and lesson in reasoning, reflecting, solving problem and making decision is referred as higher order thinking skills (HOTS). People making various decisions every day from what time they want to wake up until the time they want to sleep. Thus, the development of good decision-making skills in an individual is necessary to influence how the decision is made. One of the factors that contribute to a good developmental of decision-making skills is having a good memory and learning. This present study examined the sleep deprivation and its effect on decision making skills by carrying out controlled studies and using instruments to collect and analyse data. In addition, to increase the validity and reliability of the study outcomes.

However, human’s memory, decision making, behaviour, innovation and creativity throughout the day are influenced by the quantity and quality of sleep (Connoly, Ruderman & Leslie, 2014). Based on the performance of participant 1, the score for task assigned is higher compared to the participant 2. This shows that the decision-making skills of participant 1 whom had an early sleep is better compared to participant 2 which is late sleeper. According to Diekelmann (2014), memory processing during sleep can improved by cueing memory reactivation during sleep, stimulating sleep-specific brain oscillations and targeting specific neurotransmitter. The process of selecting actions or decision making reflects between individual needs and their desires, external cues such as the perception or judgement about the world and the internal description of one’s past memory (experience) (Redish & Mizumori, 2014). Thus, in this aspect, it can be said that the decision that is chosen by the both participant during completing multiple choice question may influenced by their memory of past experiences and combined with the judgement.

As a student, the participant could not avoid the feeling of physically and mentally tired especially at noon. This is because, students used more energy by brain and body when they are learning and walking to the class. Based on the observation, the duration from Bunga Raya College to the Faculty of Cognitive Sciences and Human Development take more than 15 minutes for each time walking. This aspect should be taken into consideration when finding for the reason of fatigue at the peak hours of both participants. Fatigue is an overwhelming sense of tiredness and loss of energy for physical and mental activity, despite the adequate amount of sleep (Nolan, Sullivan, Gleeson & Lewis, 2013) Thus, The action of taking a nap on midday or qailulah that has been practiced by the participant 1 provides many benefits towards one’s self. It can improve alertness and productivity despite the duration of nap. In addition, midday napping facilitates individual in improving the memory performances and recovers certain qualities of lost night sleep (Tumiran et al. , 2015).

Participant 1 has claimed that her sleep is a good quality sleep since she wakes up without feeling tired and the duration of the sleep is 8 hours and 30 minutes. According to Lallukka and Kronholm (2016), most people especially adulthood need around 7 to 8 hours of sleep to maintain their cognitive functioning and well-being. However, the amount of sleep may increase depending on the daily activities worked by the people. For example, student should have enough sleep since they have to balance both academic and co-curricular activity each day. Students also live in an intense environment where they have to compete with each other and require them to learn and discover new knowledge every day.

The finding from participant 1 shows no correlation between sleep and concentration. Participant 1 claimed that she had never feel sleepy in class. However, she experiences lack of concentration as she mentioned the scale of 5 out of 13 score for her concentration performance in decision making task. This is because, the environmental factor of the classroom influenced her attention to the lecture. According to Haresabadi, Raofian, Akhlaghi, Jamchi and Salehi (2016), the factors that is most significant in influenced student’s attention is proper time management by the lecturer during lecture, their interest on subject itself and the condition of the selected class such as proper lighting and ventilation.

Based on the performance of participant 2, the score for task assigned is lower compared to the participant 2. It shows that the participants with sleep deprivation have lower decision-making skills as compared to the participants that have proper sleep. Through our observation during interview and decision-making task, both participants have different response in answering the questions. The participant with sleep deprivation takes a longer time to complete the task given compared to another participants. As expected, based on previous study, they summarized that the potential effects of sleep deprivation on decision making are that individuals often required to make complex decisions due to lack of sleep (Short & Banks, 2015). There is also study that shows the decision-making reported to be impaired due to the sleep deprivation (Goel et al. , 2009). However, there still argument whether this kind of impairment are reflects to the negative impact of sleep deprivation in term of cognitive capacities. Experiencing sleep deprivation could significantly affects specific higher-order cognitive functions like decision making skills.

Apart from that, this present study also supports the previous research by Killgore, Balkin & Wesensten (2006), which states prolonged wakefulness may be as a result of severe total sleep deprivation which tends to impair working memory and attention as well as decision making and long-term memory. Both of the participants gave their cooperation and opinions on this research and the disadvantages of sleep deprivation were clearly observed among the participant who slept late. The most common observation that we can look through was being unable to concentrate in class due to the participant that sleep late at night. It was often exhibited through physiological symptoms like yawning, watery eyes or even sleeping during lectures. Thus, this finding was consistent with the fundamental process that are said to be affected by sleep deprivation (Lim & Dinges, 2008).

Contrast with another participants who never sleep in class because of the good quality of sleep that she always practices in her daily life. Based on the interview also, the participant who have sleep deprivation always spend quite a lot of time on her phone right before going to bed like checking the social media and playing games which will affects her quality of sleep. According to Henna (2018), those who slept well had semi regular sleep schedules which means they slept more than those who regarded themselves as bad sleepers and they did not have any problems falling asleep. However, those who were considered as bad sleepers slept in shorter duration of time, had problems falling asleep, having an irregular sleep schedule and their sleep was easily disturbed.

This strengthen the studies that examined whether sleep deprivation could effect on decision making which reflect the decline in quality of hippocampus to bind processes (Akadhi et al, 2013). Meanwhile, the finding from participant 2 shows correlation between sleep and concentration. Participant 2 claimed that she tends to feel sleepy in class, but depends on the environment in class. For instance, sitting for too long in class without having learning activities and classroom management. Moreover, she also experiences lack of concentration as she obtained the score of 4 out of 13 for her concentration performance in decision making task.


In this chapter, the summary of the result of the research on sleep deprivation and its effect on decision making among the undergraduate students in the University of Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS). The summary of the major findings, implications of the study and recommendations will be discussed in this chapter.

Summary of major findings

The overall found out that, students’ decision making not only affected by sleep deprivation, but there are also some other factors. Which is the memory of their past experience and combine with the judgement, the physical and mental health of an individual, playing phone before sleep. In addition, the condition of the environment factor and the attention to the lecture in class also can cause a major impact on the students’ decision making. The consequences of sleep deprivation are that it can cause the higher-order cognitive function of an individual to decrease and also cause students unable to concentrate during class.

The implication of the study

This research had drawn the attention to be more aware of the sleep the effect of sleep deprivation had among the students University Sarawak Malaysia (UNIMAS). From this research, it is important to increase the awareness of the effect of sleep deprivation on students’ decision making among the undergraduate students in UNIMAS.

Future work

For further research, it is suggested that related research should not just limit to undergraduate students. It should be expanded to the populations of all students in UNIMAS. Hence it will not be a problem to collect more data so that the results of this research will be more accurate. Apart from that, more studies can be carried out to compare the age, gender and among people who are in different field of work. For instance, finding the difference in term of the effect of sleep deprivation and decision making according to different age group. In order to obtain a more solid result, the researcher can collaborate with the neuroscience research centre so that the brain imaging technologies will be provided to the researcher to understand in depth about how the brain function when a person is lack of sleep. In addition, it also provides a more accurate result in this research.

10 October 2020

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