Medically reviewed by
Dacelin St Martin, MD
Triple board-certified in Sleep Medicine,
Internal Medicine, and Pediatrics.
A lack of quality sleep has many ways of affecting the human body and mind. One can begin to notice the effects of this the very next day after a sleepless night. Daytime drowsiness, a lack of concentration, and brain fog are some of the milder effects of the loss of one full night’s worth of sleep, defined by the CDC as 7-9 uninterrupted hours of shuteye.
If the problem becomes persistent (insomnia), the long-term health effects can be even more ominous – with the potential for high blood pressure and cardiovascular impacts, not to mention issues such as anxiety and depression – all possible.
As sleeplessness affects cognitive functions, it would stand to reason that subsequent behavior is affected as well, which is what a recent study on the relationship between a lack of sleep and generosity found.
The result, while not surprising, does bring to light another dimension of why it is that we need good-quality sleep.
A Connection is Made
The study posed the question of how kind sleep-deprived people are and how they would respond to someone needing help.
Study participants were given an altruism questionnaire after being sleep-deprived for 24 hours and after a restful night’s sleep.
In another part of the study, online participants were asked to keep a sleep diary and fill out the same altruism questionnaire the first group completed.
The results showed that those who got less sleep scored lower on the generosity questions in both groups.
In the last part of the study, millions of charitable donations in the US were analyzed pre-and-post summer clock change (where clocks are moved forward one hour, thereby losing an hour of sleep). This study showed a 10 percent decrease in donations in the days immediately after the clock change.
What can we learn?
Behavioral qualities like kindness and generosity are part of our social cognition, defined by the field of psychology as a complex set of processes that direct how we interact with others and how our decisions drive our behaviors toward them.
When we lack restorative sleep that allows us to recharge and refresh, our cognitive abilities, like memory and decision-making, can be profoundly impacted.
It’s little wonder that the behavior modalities based on cognition are also affected. Empathy and altruism are part of this landscape.
If you are experiencing chronic sleep deprivation or insomnia, you may have already felt unwanted tiredness, loss of motivation, or just overall crankiness.
If those symptoms aren’t already enough, it seems more likely now that the adverse effects of insufficient sleep can affect not just yourself but others too.
How we react to other people, including our generosity towards those in need, is connected to sleep duration, so if you have been thinking about what steps to take to get a better night’s rest for yourself, let how you interact with others be an additional motivator.
A good start is to look at your sleep hygiene and see what improvements you can make. As time and more research shows, sleep is vital to good health – inside and out.
- University of California – Berkeley. (2022, August 23). Sleepless and selfish: Lack of sleep makes us less generous: Study using fMRI and assessments of sleep-deprived show decreased desire to help others. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 11, 2022 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/08/220823143827.htm