‘Degrades the very fabric of human society itself’: New study links lack of sleep with selfishness

Sep 11, 2022
New study finds link between tiredness and compassion. Source: Getty

Sleep is an important part of our lives, in addition to being a good way to reset after a long day, getting a good night’s rest will also help to keep you in good health, lowering your risk of heart disease, depression, diabetes and more.

Now, a new study has revealed that losing as little as one hour’s sleep at night leads to a lack of compassion, and encouraged antisocial behaviour.

The University of California, Berkeley study published in PLOS BIOLOGY, stated that given helping one another is a major part of humanity, these results hold greater societal impact.

“Over the past 20 years, we have discovered a very intimate link between our sleep health and our mental health,” researcher Matthew Walker said.

“We discovered that sleep loss acts as a trigger of asocial behaviour, reducing the innate desire of humans to help one another. In a way, the less sleep you get, the less social and more selfish you become.

“But this new work demonstrates that a lack of sleep not only damages the health of an individual, but degrades social interactions between individuals and, furthermore, degrades the very fabric of human society itself.

“How we operate as a social species – and we are a social species – seems profoundly dependent on how much sleep we are getting.”

The report involved an examination of three studies, the first being an assessment of the functional magnetic resonance imager (fMRI) brain scans of 24 individuals after both a night of eight hours of sleep and a night of no sleep.

The results showed an impairment to the theory of mind network, the part of the brain that allows an individual to show empathy.

“When we think about other people, this network engages and allows us to comprehend what other person’s needs are: What are they thinking about? Are they in pain? Do they need help?” researcher Eti Ben Simon said.

“However, this network was markedly impaired when individuals were sleep deprived. It’s as though these parts of the brain fail to respond when we are trying to interact with other people after not getting enough sleep.”

The second study analysed and measured the quality of sleep of over 100 people over a couple of days, through an online setting.

The results indicated “that a decrease in the quality of someone’s sleep…predicted a significant decrease in the desire to help other people”.

The final study involved a database assessment of three million charitable donations in the US before and after the transition of Daylight Savings, finding that the single hour lead to a 10% drop in donations.

The researchers concluded that sleep is an “undervalued” element of our lives that should be brought to the forefront in an effort to restore kindness to “ourselves as well as the people around us”.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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