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How Lack of Sleep Affects Your Social Interactions

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Did you know that lack of sleep affects your social interactions? In this blog post, we discuss sleep from a different, much broader perspective than just on the individual level. To do that, we analyze a recent study: Ben Simon E, Vallat R, Rossi A, Walker MP (2022) Sleep loss leads to the withdrawal of human helping across individuals, groups, and large-scale societies. The study investigates the effects of sleep deprivation on three different levels: individual, group, and societal. To achieve their results, Simon et al. did three independent studies where the scope was the following:

  • Individual study of 24 individuals
  • Group level study of 136 individuals
  • Societal level of 3 million individuals in different contexts.

How Lack of Sleep Affects Your Social Interactions | Beyond Sapiens

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The Worse You Sleep, the Less Helpful You Will Be

In today’s video, we’re going to discuss sleep from a different, much broader perspective than just on the individual level. To do that, we’ll analyze a recent study by Simon et al., which investigates the effects of sleep deprivation on 3 different levels: individual, group, and societal.

Simon et al. talks about the correlation between sleep health and mental health as a known fact. But through their results, they were able to highlight that our sleep also affects the health of our relationships, the quality of our social interactions, and ultimately, charitable efforts nationwide. 

Sleep Quantity & Sleep Quality Both Affect Your Brain

Social Cognition Brain Network Lack of Sleep <em>Ben Simon E Vallat R Rossi A Walker MP 2022 Sleep loss leads to the withdrawal of human helping across individuals groups and large scale societies PLoS Biol 208 e3001733 httpsdoiorg101371journalpbio3001733<em>

Many factors affect our “helpfulness” and motives to help one another. But ultimately, our brain determines our decision-making and how empathic we are. In their study, Simon et al. found that sleep deprivation affects a part of our brain responsible for our overall empathic behavior. 

This part of the brain is called the social cognition brain network, which is a combination of different brain areas activated by our thinking. For example, when we consider whether to help or not help someone.

So what happens in the brain during sleep deprivation is that primary connections between these brain areas deactivate.

Because of this decreased brain activity, our willingness to help others and even our ability to understand other people’s needs and goals also drop. 

To simplify this mental domino effect:

Sleep deprivation causes changes in our brain activity, affecting our willingness and ability to help and understand others.

If You Want to Succeed, Prioritize Your Sleep

What if you sleep enough, but your sleep quality isn’t optimal? As you can imagine, that also counts.

Sleeping enough is crucial, but it’s just a piece of the puzzle. How well you sleep has also been shown to affect your social interactions. The worse your sleep quality, the “less helpful” you will be. 

Sleep Quantity Sleep Quality <em>Ben Simon E Vallat R Rossi A Walker MP 2022 Sleep loss leads to the withdrawal of human helping across individuals groups and large scale societies PLoS Biol 208 e3001733 httpsdoiorg101371journalpbio3001733<em>sleep quality quantity social interactions

Knowing all this, being aware of your sleep quality can give you valuable data you can use in your life. At Beyond Sapiens, we use the Oura Ring to track our sleep and have a dashboard where we gather all the most important metrics.
Why is that useful?

First of all, what you focus on improves.
Secondly, if, for some reason, such as a late evening workout, my sleep wasn’t optimal, I would know in advance that it would affect my social interactions, so I could be more conscious about how I show up.

Can you imagine what would happen if all employees and employers were more aware of this?
That is probably going to take some time. As of now, society, and especially the business world, often glorifies lack of sleep.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard many times statements like, “If you really want to succeed, you should give up sleep.” If you want to underperform and affect your social interactions, then sure. While if you want to truly harness your power, you should consistently prioritize your sleep. Sometimes though, life gets in the way, and you might sleep one hour less than usual. Not a big deal, right? Well, according to the research, sleeping one hour less already affects your helpful behavior.
And the authors have quite a lot of data to back this up.
As part of their method, they mined a database of 3 million charitable donations in the US between 2001 and 2016 and noticed a 10% decrease in donations during the week of the Daylight Savings Time shift. And interestingly, there was no drop in donations in states that did not move the clock, which confirms the findings of this study.

Societal Effect of Sleep Deprivation <em>Ben Simon E Vallat R Rossi A Walker MP 2022 Sleep loss leads to the withdrawal of human helping across individuals groups and large scale societies PLoS Biol 208 e3001733 httpsdoiorg101371journalpbio3001733<em>

If we apply this newly gained awareness to the day-to-day, where many people don’t get enough sleep, we can easily see that the economic and societal consequences can be pretty impactful. Looking at the bright side, also the opposite is true. Well-rested individuals would be unstoppable compared to a group of sleep-deprived ones. That’s why our Maximization Coaching Programs, among other things, focus on improving the sleep quality of individuals and teams.

Stay Aligned with Your Ethics & Morals

As we believe that optimizing sleep is crucial, we want to give you one last important point from Simon et al. The results of the study indicate that our willingness to help others while sleep deprived is the same regardless if the subject of help is familiar or unfamiliar to us. So maybe we all should reflect on the quality and quantity of our sleep so that we do not unconsciously neglect our loved ones, friends, and people around us.

We must understand how we can be aware of these behavioral changes and ensure that our actions aren’t unconsciously unaligned with our ethics and morals. Because ultimately, we all want and should live up to our values, uplift, and help each other to be part of a better, more caring society. 

We hope this blog post helped you gain a new perspective on the importance of your sleep!
If you’re ready to go Beyond Sapiens, you can learn more about our Individual & Business Maximization Coaching program.

Thanks for watching, and we’ll see you next week!

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