Sleepless nights can lead to selfish behavior, study suggests

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Sleep is widely recognized as one of the essential processes of life, providing powerful benefits in physical and mental health and even mortality.

But did you know that sleepless nights can also lead to selfish behavior?

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Insufficient sleep affects a person’s likelihood of helping someone else, according to new research published in the journal PLOS Biology on Tuesday.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley conducted three studies in the United States looking at this “selfish” effect, looking at changes in neural activity and behavior that benefit others, and found that it was prevalent even after a small loss of sleep.

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Researcher Eti Ben Simon and Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at UC Berkeley and director of the university’s Human Sleep Science Center, led the study. they told the CNN that this discovery was very surprising.

“Even just one hour of sleep loss was more than enough to influence the choice to help someone else,” said Ben Simon, a postdoctoral fellow in psychology at the Center for Human Sleep Science.

“When people miss an hour of sleep, there is a clear impact on our innate human kindness and our motivation to help others in need.”

When analyzing a database of three million charitable donations between 2001 and 2016, Ben Simon, Walker and their colleagues saw a 10% drop in donations after daylight saving time. This drop was not observed in states that do not follow the one-hour forward transition.

In the second study, researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to observe the brain activity of 24 people after eight hours of sleep and after one sleepless night. The prosocial neural network — the areas of the brain associated with theory of mind — became less active after sleep deprivation, according to this research.

Theory of mind is the ability to consider other people’s needs, states, and emotions, which typically develops in early childhood with socialization.

In the third study, which measured the sleep of more than 100 people over three to four nights, researchers unexpectedly found that sleep quality was more important than sleep quantity when it came to measuring selfishness.

The team assessed levels of selfishness based on responses to questionnaires that were completed by study participants. Sleep quantity and quality typically influence emotional and social behavior, so the team expected to find an effect of both, Ben Simon told CNN .

“These findings may suggest that once sleep duration increases above a nominal base amount, then it appears to be the quality of that sleep that is most critical in helping and supporting our desire to help others,” she explained.

More than half of all people in developed countries say they get little sleep during the workweek, in what Walker calls the “global epidemic of sleep loss.”

Extensive research has already shown links to mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, as well as physical illnesses such as diabetes and obesity.

Now, as evidence becomes increasingly available about its negative impact on social behavior, it could have consequences for society today, Walker added.

Ben Simon and Walker hope their research will allow people to catch a full night’s sleep without embarrassment or the stigma of laziness.

“(Sleep loss) radically alters how we are as social and emotional beings, which you could argue is the very essence of human interaction and what it means to live a full and meaningful human existence,” Walker said.

Source: CNN Brasil

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