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Is your personality type increasing your vulnerability?


Recognizing your personality type may help you avoid an accident when you’re sleep-deprived, exhausted, and driving home after shift. And it may influence your response to other life threats when you’re tired, as well.

We’re all less alert, less active, and less energetic when we’re fatigued and short on sleep. But research indicates that extroverts — individuals who tend to be more gregarious, assertive, and stimulus-seeking — are especially hard hit by sleep deprivation, according to a new book called Quiet by Susan Cain, an expert in negotiation skills.

Cain cites a study conducted for the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in which a sampling of male and female military personnel, ranging in age from 20-35, were screened to establish personality tendencies and then sleep-deprived for a period of 72 hours. During the experiment they were tested repeatedly for vigilance and reaction time.

A distinct difference in performance emerged between the more extroverted volunteers and those exhibiting a predominant tendency toward introversion (a preference for quiet, introspection, and a lower level of sensation-seeking).

As time passed without sleep, everyone’s performance deteriorated. But within the first 26 hours of wakefulness, extroverts showed significantly greater lapses in attention and slower reaction times.

In short, Cain states, “Introverts function better than extroverts when sleep deprived.” The difference in how their brains operate seems to convey some “resistance to the adverse cognitive effects of sleep loss” to introverts, while extroverts suffer “some vulnerability to the adverse neurobehavioral effects of sleep deprivation,” the researchers concluded.

“Drowsy extroverts behind the wheel should be especially careful,” Cain advises. “Conversely, introverts driving in loud, overly arousing traffic noise should work to stay focused, since the noise may impair their thinking.”

Cain chooses to reference only the impact on driving ability, but Dr. Bryan Vila, author of the landmark book Tired Cops, and other experts point out that lack of sleep affects alertness, decision-making, and response time in potentially threatening street confrontations, as well.

Whatever your personality type, caffeine can probably help you better navigate through fatigue. The Walter Reed researchers found that the subjects in their study who chewed caffeinated gum showed better performance responses than those who were given a placebo to chomp on.

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