Looking sleep-deprived lowers people's social appeal, study suggests

Henrietta Strickland
May 20, 2017

A joint study from New York University and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden found that limited sleep for two consecutive nights could be enough to make someone appear less attractive to others.

The team, led by Dr. Tina Sundelin, asked 25 university students, who volunteered to participate in the experiment, to have two nights of ideal sleep in a row, before having their picture taken. Basically, if you look more exhausted, you also look more unhealthy, and this might trigger some diseases-avoiding reactions in others - which would explain why people would avoid socializing with sleep-deprived people. After that, they were photographed by the researchers.

Next, the photographs were shown to 122 participants who rated the images on attractiveness, trustworthiness, health and sleepiness.

They were also asked if they would like to socialise with the person in the photo, the "Los Angeles Times" reported.

As IFL Science put it, "basically, when you see someone who looks sick, the last thing you want to do is hang out with them".

Those who have restricted sleep are less attractive to others, says a new study.

The strangers were good at judging if the person they were looking at was exhausted, and, if they were sleepy, their attractiveness score suffered.

While further studies are needed to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying the effects of sleep deprivation on facial appearance, the researchers believe that their findings further highlight the importance of a good night's sleep. On average, the students slept a total of seven hours less over the two restricted-sleep sessions.

The strangers were very capable of telling when the people in the photos were exhausted. "Most people can cope just fine if they miss out on a bit of sleep now and again".

"We want our partners to be attractive and energetic", he added. "The reasons for avoiding people who look sleepy may include the fact that sleepy individuals are at a higher risk for accidents, or more prone to be carriers of contagious pathogens, or aspects making them less socially rewarding to be around", the researchers explain.

Still, the findings are interesting - if only as a reminder of the many ways that not getting enough sleep can negatively affect your wellbeing, including, apparently, your social wellbeing.

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