Sleep Deprivation Makes Us Interpret Facial Expressions More Negatively


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Science News

Researchers at Uppsala University, Sweden, revealed how acute sleep loss makes people negatively evaluate facial expressions. The study is published in the journal Nature and Science of Sleep.

The Study

The research team examined 45 young men and women to understand how sleep-deprived people evaluate others’ faces. The participants spent one night with no sleep and one night with eight-hour sleep. Their eye movements were measured in the mornings following both nights with eye-tracking (a sensor technology that detects what a person is looking at in real-time). The data collected is further analyzed to decode how sleep-deprived people see others’ facial expressions.

The Findings

The results revealed that the sleep-deprived subjects spent less time fixating on facial expressions. And even if they did, they rated angry faces as less trustworthy and healthy-looking and neutral and fearful faces as less attractive.

How People With Acute Sleep Loss See Facial Expressions

The researchers caution against the link between social withdrawal and chronic or acute sleep loss. One of the lead researchers, Christian Benedict, elaborated: “[The study] indicates that sleep loss is associated with more negative social impressions of others. This could result in less motivation to interact socially.”

To Know More You May Relate To

van Egmond, L. T., Meth, E., Bukhari, S., Engström, J., Ilemosoglou, M., Keller, J. A., Zhou, S., Schiöth, H. B., & Benedict, C. (2022). How Sleep-Deprived People See and Evaluate Others’ Faces: An Experimental Study. Nature and science of sleep, 14, 867–876. https://doi.org/10.2147/NSS.S360433

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