Imagine a day in your life. How might that one day turn out if it is preceded by a night of sleep loss as opposed to a night of good sleep? Well, according to my thesis, for anyone who lives in a world where they have to be around other people, it might not be such a great day.
The thesis is (will be!) called "Sleep loss in a social world" and contains several studies on how others perceive and react to someone who is sleep deprived, compared to when that same person has slept. First of all, when sleep deprived, subjects are perceived as more tired and less attractive. They also look sadder. Furthermore, other people are less willing to spend time with someone who hasn’t slept, possibly due to them being less attractive. Pretty much everyone gets upset if they feel others are excluding them, but according to another study in the thesis, a sleep-deprived person reacts even more strongly to social exclusion than their well-rested peers do. In short, sleep loss affects several social factors that might influence your daily interactions negatively.
The dance thus shows one day, as it would play out if the PhD student we’re watching had slept and if she hadn’t – looking more tired, feeling more upset when excluded from a meeting, having others less willing to spend time with her at lunch, and finally being less attractive when on a date, adding further insult to injury.
And yes, I am the PhD student. And no, I don’t sleep as much as I should!