21st Congress of the European Sleep Research Society
Paris, France

04.09.2012 - 08.09.2012
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Home - 07.09.2012 - Learning, dreaming and emotions


Learning, dreaming and emotions

Friday, September 07, 2012, 11:30 - 11:42

The effects of sleep restriction on attractiveness and social desirability

T. Sundelin, M. Lekander, J. Axelsson (Stockholm, SE)

Objectives: Sleep deprivation inflicts a wide range of behavioural changes in the affected individual. Less is known of whether sleep deprived people are treated differently by others, a notion indicated by the earlier finding that sleep deprivation negatively affects attractiveness (Axelsson 2010). The aim of the present study was to investigate whether we are less willing to spend time with someone who has been exposed to two days of restricted sleep. A secondary aim was to validate the recent findings that total sleep deprivation affects attractiveness, using a more ecologically valid sleep restriction protocol.
Method: 25 participants with a reported sleep need of 7-8 hours came into our lab to be photographed on two separate occasions: after two nights of normal sleep (8 hours in bed/night), and after two nights of sleep restriction (4 hours in bed/night). The conditions were in a balanced order and the photographs taken in a controlled setting. Two facial photographs of each participant - one from each condition - were then shown to 40 na´ve raters, rating the faces on 7-point Likert scales of attractiveness as well as how much they would like to socialize with that person.
Results: Participants were rated as less attractive when photos had been taken during sleep restriction, as compared to after two nights of normal sleep (p<0.05). The raters were less willing to socialize with sleep restricted participants (p<0.05); this effect seemed, at least partially, driven by the effect of sleep restriction on attractiveness (p=.24 when controlling for attractiveness).
Conclusion: Decreasing sleep to 4h/night for two nights affects our appearance in the same way total sleep deprivation does, leaving us less attractive to others. Furthermore, in missing out on our beauty sleep, our peers are less likely to want to socialize with us. The fact that the amount of sleep we get may affect how others behave towards us is a phenomena requiring further attention. For example, are people with poor or disturbed sleep differently treated in work settings or other social situations: when we are in need of social support or when trying to get a date?
References: Axelsson, J., Sundelin, T., Ingre, M., Van Someren, E., Olsson, A., & Lekander, M. (2010) Beauty sleep: An experimental study on the perceived health and attractiveness of sleep deprived individuals. BMJ. 341:c6614