We all know that a crummy night’s sleep can leave us feeling cranky and irritated. No doubt, you’ve looked in the mirror after getting the less-than-suggested 8 hours of shuteye and winced at the dark circles and puffy eyelids. A small group of scientists in Sweden conducted a study quantifying how much poor sleep can affect a person’s “attractiveness score.”
Despite the fact that we humans tend to think of ourselves as advanced, there are still a lot of evolutionary instincts at play in our daily lives– one of which is how we react to appearances. Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm recruited 25 college students to be their beauty sleep guinea pigs, using specialized equipment to track their sleep. For the first two nights, the paid volunteers were allowed a healthy eight hours of sleep. A week later, the students were restricted to two consecutive nights of only four hours of sleep. After each period of sleep, subjects were photographed in the same manner (same clothing, same hairstyle, no make up or jewelry) by a photographer blind to the experiment. Scientists then invited 122 men and women in the Stockholm area to view the photos and rate the participants’ attractiveness, health, sleepiness and trustworthiness, as well as answer whether or not they would like to socialize with those they perceived as tired.
Researchers learned that their small study corroborates the findings of earlier studies regarding how sleeplessness affects attractiveness. The strangers were able to quite accurately pick out those photos that correlated to the sleep deprived subjects. These same photos also received lower marks for attractiveness as well as a lower interest in social interaction. Scientists attribute this reaction to an inherent preference for healthy-looking people. The pale, haggard faces of sleeplessness can be interpreted as a sign of ill health, kicking in disease-avoidance predispositions. Researchers theorize that the resulting social exclusion in turn negatively impacts the sleep-deprived individual leading to decreased social interaction and increased aggression. Meaning that sleep is inherently tied to both mental and social health.
While more in-depth research is needed to further explore how these variables perform in true-to-life settings, these findings demonstrate an unmistakable relationship between restricted sleep and diminished attractiveness and perceived health. In the end, this study further emphasizes how healthy sleep influences all aspects of our lives. Bottom line: make an effort to get solid sleep and your social life will thank you.
This article originally appeared in Sleep Retailer eNews on November 9, 2017
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