It’s no secret that a lack of sleep can put us in a bad mood. However, according to researchers at the University of California- Berkeley, sleep deprivation also hinders our ability to accurately read the facial expressions of others and assess their mood.
In fact, this impairment could have serious consequences for our social interactions, such as not noticing that someone is in pain, or even that a potential mugger is near.
“Recognizing the emotional expressions of someone else changes everything about whether or not you decide to interact with them, and in return, whether they interact with you,” explained study senior author Matthew Walker in a UC Berkeley press release.
Published in the Journal of Neuroscience this month, 18 young adults viewed 70 facial expressions that ranged from friendly to neutral to threatening while having their brains and heart rates measured. Once after a full night of sleep, and again after being awake for 24 hours.
The Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans showed that the emotional intelligence of the participants was greatly affected after sleep deprivation, as their brains could not tell the difference between friendly and threatening faces.
In addition, the sleep-deprived participants’ heart rates did not respond to the threatening faces, as the link between their brain and heart was disconnected. This critical connection is what helps the body sense distress signals.
“The real-life implications become clear when you consider professional and societal circumstances where sleep deprivation is common — be it doctors and medical staff, military personnel or new parents, the accurate identification and recognition of emotional signals, as well as the need to be guided by them, is utterly critical.”
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults enjoy 7-9 hours of sleep every night, including weekends. Commit to resting more to truly be at your best, trust us there are no substitutes for quality shut-eye!
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