The Weird Side Effect of Not Getting Enough Sleep


You know that it’s important to get a good night’s sleep, and odds are you probably try to do the best that you can. However, plenty of people fall short of getting as much sleep as they need — Gallup reports that 42 percent of adults in the U.S. don’t get enough shut-eye.

Now, a May 17 study published in the journal Royal Society Open Science has found that a lack of zzz’s will do more than make you tired — it can be a turn-off to other people. For the study, researchers photographed 25 people, after two days of not getting enough sleep and after getting a good night’s sleep. The pictures were given to 122 people to rate how much they would like to socialize with the study participants. They were also asked to rate participants’ attractiveness, health, sleepiness, and trustworthiness.

Here’s what they discovered: People were less inclined to want to socialize with those who hadn’t gotten enough sleep. Not only that, but when people were tired, they were rated as less attractive and less healthy than when they were well rested. “These findings suggest that … people are less inclined to interact with a sleep-deprived individual,” researchers concluded in the paper.

That’s potentially a problem for a lot of people: According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults over the age of 18 need a minimum of seven hours of sleep a night — and many don’t get that.

But Kimberly Fenn, an associate professor of psychology at Michigan State University, who was not involved in the study, tells Yahoo Beauty that she’s not shocked by the study findings. “Sleep deprivation is associated with a wide variety of physiological changes, such as impaired immune function, reduced cardiovascular health, and even impaired glucose metabolism,” she says, which is why people who are sleep deprived can be viewed as less healthy.

However, Fenn says she’s surprised by how quickly these effects surface. After just two nights of not getting enough sleep, there were significant differences in how people were perceived, she points out. “This is important because the average amount of sleep that Americans obtain per night has been dramatically declining over the past few decades,” she says. “This is a clear illustration that reduced sleep may also have serious social consequences.”

Lead study author Tina Sundelin, a postdoctoral researcher at Karolinska Institute in Sweden, tells Yahoo Beauty that she’s not totally sure why people don’t want to socialize with those who look sleepy but points out that it may be due to a disease-avoidance tendency. “People who look tired also look less healthy,” she explains. Or, she adds, it could also be that we tend to assume that people who look tired aren’t going to be in the mood for socializing.

Sundelin notes that the impact of sleep restriction on a person’s appearance is “fairly small,” but it can make people perceive you differently. If you’re struggling to get enough sleep, she recommends stopping work on your phone or computer an hour before bed, keeping your bedroom just for sleeping, and trying to have regular sleep hours. These are small tweaks, but they can help you nab more sleep and change how the world perceives you.

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