Being tired changes a lot about us – it might make our face puffy; our food cravings soar and our coffee addiction even more apparent. A lack of sleep doesn’t only turn us into physical zombies though, it can change the way we feel about the people around us.
That’s according to a new study published in the Nature and Science of Sleep journal, that looked into how sleepiness impacts our perception of others. To do that, researchers analyzed participants’ eye movements after both a sleepless night and an eight-hour sleep to see how they would explore and evaluate happy, fearful, angry, and neutral faces.
They found that young adults when sleep-deprived evaluate angry faces as less trustworthy and healthy-looking. Furthermore, neutral and fearful faces appear less attractive following sleep loss.
This “indicates that sleep loss is associated with more negative social impressions of others. This could result in less motivation to interact socially,” says senior author Christian Benedict, Associate Professor of Neuroscience.
While you might not be regularly missing entire nights of sleep, it’s a reminder that we aren’t ourselves when we’re tired. It’s probably best to avoid staring too intently at people’s faces to counteract our natural lack of fixation, but it’s worth thinking about what people mean before misreading their faces when you’re tired. It might save you an argument or the inner turmoil of thinking your friends and colleagues are all annoyed or repulsive.