INSIDE HOOK – You’re not you when you’re sleepy.
According to recent research from Dr. Eti Ben Simon, a neuroscientist at the Center for Human Sleep Science in Berkeley, sleep loss leads to “the withdrawal of human helping across individuals, groups, and large-scale societies.”
Which is an academic way of saying that when we don’t sleep well, we morph into selfish bastards.
Why? Well, sleep deprivation is hell on the brain, and deactivates key nodes “within the social cognition brain network” that encourage generosity, thoughtfulness and empathy.
A poor night’s sleep essentially guarantees a bad mood, making us less inclined to even see other people in person, let alone listen to their problems, buy them a coffee, or help them move a couch.
Consider some of the experiments in Dr. Simon’s study:
- An experimenter and a participant would walk towards each other. The participant had to decide what qualified as “too close.” The sleep-deprived participants consistently stopped the experimenters farther away.
- An fMRI machine scanned participants’ brains as they answered a questionnaire that explored how likely they were to help others. Low activity in the neural networks of sleep-deprived participants indicated they were significantly less inclined to help others — even in the case of family and friends.
- A database of charitable donations indicates that Americans are less inclined to altruism the week of daylight saving time, as they lose an hour of sleep. Over 15 years, the amount donated that week is down 10% relative to an average week. (But rates in Arizona and Hawaii, which don’t observe DST, have stayed the same.)
- And finally: a colleague of Dr. Simon’s discovered that doctors on night shifts were less likely to prescribe painkillers, due to reduced empathy for their patients …