Sleep Deprivation May Lead to Social Isolation

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Sleep Deprivation May Lead to Social Isolation

Lack of sleep may cause an individual to be lonelier and socially rejected / Photo by Getty Images


Lack of sleep is often associated with physical health problems, but researchers from the University of California show that it may also have social consequences. The study which was published in the Nature Communications journal revealed that sleep deprivation may cause an individual to be lonelier and be socially rejected.

Experiment Process

Matthew Walker and Ben Simon, authors of the research, conducted several experiments to measure the effects of sleep deprivation on a person’s socialization. Their experiments involved videotaped simulations, standardized loneliness measures and surveys, and brain imaging.

They gathered 18 young participants to examine their brains’ reaction after getting a good night’s sleep and after a sleepless night. Participants were shown video clips of neutral-faced people walking in their direction. When the person the video got too close, they pressed the stop button. This demonstrated how close they permitted other people to approach them which was indicated to be 16% to 80% further away from them.

As they watched the video, their brains were also assessed with a scanner. The results of the brain scan showed that when those who had poor sleep watched the person in the video move closer towards them, areas of the brain that responded to potential harm were triggered.

In the next part of the experiment, they asked more than 1,000 observers on the internet to watch videotapes of the study participants talking about normal activities and opinions. The online observers, who did not know about the participants’ lack of sleep, were also asked to rate them on how lonely they look and if they would like to engage with them.

After viewing clips of a lonely individual, the online observers who had comparatively good sleep were said to have felt estranged.The researchers decided to test if a good sleep or poor sleep had the ability to affect the person’s loneliness the following day. The condition of loneliness was kept in check by making them answer questions such as “Do you feel you don’t have anyone to talk to?” and “How often do you feel isolated from others?”

Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Socialization

The Mice Time Asia states that when a person has poor sleep, they will experience these adverse effects in socializing:

1. Wanting Less Interaction

Sleep deficiency may cause a person to refrain from communicating and cooperating with other people. As a result, they become social outcasts.

2. Seeing others as threats

Being deprived of sleep can make an individual want to avoid others and view them negatively. People who lack sleep see others as a threat to themselves.

3. Being “social turn-offs”

Since people who have poor sleep appeared lonelier than others, they were also viewed as socially unpleasant or unattractive. Coming in contact with a sleep-deprived person may lead them to exhibit anti-social behaviors, which they were “infected” with.



Walker emphasizes the overall negative impact of not being able to sleep well at night. He warns, “The less sleep you get, the less you want to socially interact. In turn, other people perceive you as more repulsive, further increasing the grave social -isolation impact of sleep loss.”

The Connection of Loneliness and Lack of Sleep

In several national American surveys, it was revealed that half of the American population considered themselves lonely or excluded. Simon, co-author of the research, noted, “It’s perhaps no coincidence that the past few decades have seen a marked increase in loneliness and an equally dramatic decrease in sleep duration.” He adds that not having enough sleep makes a person a social turn-off, soon accompanied by loneliness.

Getting a Good Night’s Sleep Can Improve Social Life

The authors of the research conclude that if a person habitually gets sufficient sleep, which is seven to nine hours each night, this may greatly benefit their social life. A single night of proper sleep can make them be more outgoing and confident in interacting with people. Eventually, this will draw others to them.


Half of American population considered themselves lonely or excluded due to sleep deprivation which makes them a social turn-off / Photo by Getty Images




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