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Study Finds Sleep-Deprived People Can’t Read Facial Expressions

Study Finds Sleep-Deprived People Can’t Read Facial Expressions

A recent study shows that the lack of sleep can affect the way you perceive people’s emotions, so if you’re starting to feel like the world is against you, it may be time to clock in some zzz’s.

It’s time to stop stretching your waking hours to accommodate too many things in your career and social calendar. Adding to the many reasons why you shouldn’t scrimp on sleep, a recent study published in the Journal of Neuroscience shows that the lack of sleep curtails our ability to read facial expressions. This means that without proper sleep, our brain is not able to properly decipher the moods of people around us, making interaction and decisions based on our impressions more difficult.

Researcher Matthew Walker, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkeley, explains:

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“The better the quality of dream sleep, the more accurate the brain and body was at differentiating between facial expressions”.

The Brain – Heart Disconnect

The experiment comprised of 18 healthy young adults who were asked to viewed 70 facial expressions that ranged from friendly to threatening. The test showed that there was a huge difference in the way their brain reacted to seeing the facial reactions after a full night of sleep, and then later after 24 hours of being awake.

The researchers monitored the brain activity and heart rate of the participants in both scenarios. The results show that without sleep, the brain is less able to stimulate the anterior insula and the anterior cingulate cortex, its emotion-sensing regions. They also found that when sleep deprived, the brain is unable to send distress signals to the heart, creating a different physical response to what would normally be experienced during emotional situations. Participants who weren’t able to get a full night’s rest were interpreting most facial reactions, including friendly and neutral ones, as threatening and negative emotions instead.

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Wonans-Hands-With-Jewelry-Typing-On-Laptop-Sitting-On-A-Bed
    Close that laptop and hit the sack!

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    Walker finds this as a major cause of concern as he relays:

    “Two-thirds of people in the developed nations fail to get sufficient sleep”.

    This is an alarming finding since sleep deprivation is a common phenomenon, and it is not uncommon for people to consider sleep as a lesser priority to their deadlines and social commitments. Consider how this affects you on a daily basis. The less sleep you get, the less able you will be to properly interact and communicate with the people around you. Our ability to read expressions properly allows us to form our impressions and judgement of people, which in turn results to how we react in various situations. This over estimation of threat caused by the lack of sleep can cause you to react to the most neutral of situations as a cause of emotional concern and stress. Next time you’re sleep deprived and feeling paranoid that people are giving you a stink eye, it might actually all just be in your head.

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    This poses a more significant level of threat to individuals with jobs that require quick response to highly stressful situations but are prone to sleep-deprivation. These are the people who are expected to make important decisions based on first impressions and intuition. The study lead author Andrea Goldstein-Piekarski, a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University (who has been working on the study since he was a Ph.D. student at UC Berkeley), notes:

    “Consider the implications for students pulling all-nighters, emergency-room medical staff, military fighters in war zones and police officers on graveyard shifts”.

    We have been told time and again that sleep is an important factor to attain complete physical, mental, and emotional wellness. Understand that the harm of sleep deprivation is a very real thing. If you or your loved ones have been getting less sleep than recommended, it is time to make a change. Save yourself from awkward situations and poorly calculated decisions. Turn off the lights, pry your eyes away from your phone, and tuck yourself in. A conscious effort to snooze off as scheduled can help your mind and body function like a well-oiled machine.

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    Featured photo credit: Ryan McGuire via stocksnap.io

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    Last Updated on November 20, 2018

    10 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

    10 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

    A new year beautifully symbolizes a new chapter opening in the book that is your life. But while so many people like you aspire to achieve ambitious goals, only 12% of you will ever experience the taste of victory. Sound bad? It is. 156 million people (that’s 156,000,000) will probably give up on their resolution before you can say “confetti.” Keep on reading to learn why New Year’s resolutions fail (and how to succeed).

    Note: Since losing weight is the most common New Year’s resolution, I chose to focus on weight loss (but these principles can be applied to just about any goal you think of — make it work for you!).

    1. You’re treating a marathon like a sprint.

    Slow and steady habit change might not be sexy, but it’s a lot more effective than the “I want it ALL and I want it NOW!” mentality. Small changes stick better because they aren’t intimidating (if you do it right, you’ll barely even notice them!).

    If you have a lot of bad habits today, the last thing you need to do is remodel your entire life overnight. Want to lose weight? Stop it with the crash diets and excessive exercise plans. Instead of following a super restrictive plan that bans anything fun, add one positive habit per week. For example, you could start with something easy like drinking more water during your first week. The following week, you could move on to eating 3 fruits and veggies every day. And the next week, you could aim to eat a fistful of protein at every meal.

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    2. You put the cart before the horse.

    “Supplementing” a crappy diet is stupid, so don’t even think about it. Focus on the actions that produce the overwhelming amount of results. If it’s not important, don’t worry about it.

    3. You don’t believe in yourself.

    A failure to act can cripple you before you leave the starting line. If you’ve tried (and failed) to set a New Year’s resolution (or several) in the past, I know it might be hard to believe in yourself. Doubt is a nagging voice in your head that will resist personal growth with every ounce of its being. The only way to defeat doubt is to believe in yourself. Who cares if you’ve failed a time or two? This year, you can try again (but better this time).

    4. Too much thinking, not enough doing.

    The best self-help book in the world can’t save you if you fail to take action. Yes, seek inspiration and knowledge, but only as much as you can realistically apply to your life. If you can put just one thing you learn from every book or article you read into practice, you’ll be on the fast track to success.

    5. You’re in too much of a hurry.

    If it was quick-and-easy, everybody would do it, so it’s in your best interest to exercise your patience muscles.

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    6. You don’t enjoy the process.

    Is it any wonder people struggle with their weight when they see eating as a chore and exercise as a dreadful bore? The best fitness plan is one that causes the least interruption to your daily life. The goal isn’t to add stress to your life, but rather to remove it.

    The best of us couldn’t bring ourselves to do something we hate consistently, so make getting in shape fun, however you’ve gotta do it. That could be participating in a sport you love, exercising with a good friend or two, joining a group exercise class so you can meet new people, or giving yourself one “free day” per week where you forget about your training plan and exercise in any way you please.

    7. You’re trying too hard.

    Unless you want to experience some nasty cravings, don’t deprive your body of pleasure. The more you tell yourself you can’t have a food, the more you’re going to want it. As long as you’re making positive choices 80-90% of the time, don’t sweat the occasional indulgence.

    8. You don’t track your progress.

    Keeping a written record of your training progress will help you sustain an “I CAN do this” attitude. All you need is a notebook and a pen. For every workout, record what exercises you do, the number of repetitions performed, and how much weight you used if applicable. Your goal? Do better next time. Improving your best performance on a regular basis offers positive feedback that will encourage you to keep going.

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    9. You have no social support.

    It can be hard to stay motivated when you feel alone. The good news? You’re not alone: far from it. Post a status on Facebook asking your friends if anybody would like to be your gym or accountability buddy. If you know a co-worker who shares your goal, try to coordinate your lunch time and go out together so you’ll be more likely to make positive decisions. Join a support group of like-minded folks on Facebook, LinkedIn, or elsewhere on the internet. Strength in numbers is powerful, so use it to your advantage.

    10. You know your what but not your why.

    The biggest reason why most New Year’s resolutions fail: you know what you want but you not why you want it.

    Yes: you want to get fit, lose weight, or be healthy… but why is your goal important to you? For example:

    Do you want to be fit so you can be a positive example that your children can admire and look up to?

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    Do you want to lose fat so you’ll feel more confident and sexy in your body than ever before?

    Do you want to be healthy so you’ll have increased clarity, energy, and focus that would carry over into every single aspect of your life?

    Whether you’re getting in shape because you want to live longer, be a good example, boost your energy, feel confident, have an excuse to buy hot new clothes, or increase your likelihood of getting laid (hey, I’m not here to judge) is up to you. Forget about any preconceived notions and be true to yourself.

    • The more specific you can make your goal,
    • The more vivid it will be in your imagination,
    • The more encouraged you’ll be,
    • The more likely it is you will succeed (because yes, you CAN do this!).

    I hope this guide to why New Year’s resolutions fail helps you achieve your goals this year. If you found this helpful, please pass it along to some friends so they can be successful just like you. What do you hope to accomplish next year?

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