Under the Hood

Surprising Effects Of Not Getting Enough Sleep

Do you make sure to get at least seven hours of sleep every night? If not, you are far from alone as many people in the United States report losing sleep for a variety of reasons.

While losing a couple of hours hardly seems like an issue, this can certainly induce some short-term effects. While tiredness and hunger are some of the more predictable consequences, here are a few you may find quite surprising. 

1. Your social life may bear the brunt

As loneliness has become an increasingly popular subject of research, sleep has been highlighted as an important factor when it comes to the quality of our social lives. In fact, this could be a two-way street as researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, demonstrated in this study.

"The less sleep you get, the less you want to socially interact," said senior author Matthew Walker, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Berkeley. "In turn, other people perceive you as more socially repulsive, further increasing the grave social-isolation impact of sleep loss."

2. Everything seems a lot more annoying

Typically, when exposed to a source of irritation such as uncomfortable clothing or a dog that won't stop barking, we learn to adapt over time and deal with it. But this ability is hindered when we do not get enough sleep — an effect which was observed in a 2018 study from Iowa State University.

Losing just two to four hours of sleep could lead to a reverse effect where your distress levels actually increase over time in response to things like a mildly frustrating sound.

3. You are less capable of feeling empathy

There have been a number of studies that have found a link between sleep deprivation and reduced emotional empathy — be it with teenagers or with health care workers. Over time, this could have serious consequences in the workplace and even in personal relationships.

One night of sleep deprivation caused emotional empathy responses to become "blunted" in a study from the University of Calgary. Regardless of whether they saw someone in a positive or negative situation, the participants simply "cared less about other people’s emotions," the study authors noted.

4. Sensitivity to physical pain may increase

Recently, scientists at UC Berkeley revealed that sleep loss could amplify the pain-sensing regions in the brain. In their new study, participants were subjected to increasing heat levels on their leg.

On average, discomfort was reported at 111 degrees Fahrenheit after a night of adequate sleep. But this threshold dropped to 107 degrees Fahrenheit after a night without sufficient sleep. The lack of shuteye also seemed to reduce activity in a part of the brain which helps with the release of natural painkillers.