Loss of sleep makes people less willing to assist others

One of the cornerstones of civilised society is the fact that people help one another. However, a recent study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, shows that sleep deprivation impairs this essential human quality, which has practical repercussions.

The risk of cardiovascular disease, depression, diabetes, hypertension, and overall mortality is known to be raised by sleep deprivation. However, these new findings demonstrate that sleep deprivation also affects our fundamental social conscience, causing us to reduce our desire and inclination to assist others.

In one section of the new study, the researchers found that charitable giving fell by 10% in the week following the start of Daylight Saving Time, when people in most states “spring forward” and lose an hour of daylight. This decline was not observed in states that do not change their clocks or in the fall, when people return to standard time.

The study, which was co-led by psychology professor Matthew Walker and research scientist Eti Ben Simon of UC Berkeley, adds to a growing body of evidence showing how lack of sleep not only impairs one’s mental and physical health but also weakens interpersonal relationships and even a nation’s sense of altruism.

According to a growing number of studies, such as this one, sleep loss has impacts that spread beyond the individual to others around them, according to Ben Simon. “If you don’t get enough sleep, it affects everyone in your social circle, including strangers, and not just your own health.”

The findings by Ben Simon, Walker, and coworkers Raphael Vallat and Aubrey Rossi will be published in the open access journal PLOS Biology on August 23. The Center for Human Sleep Science is run by Walker. He and Ben Simon are employees at the UC Berkeley Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute.


Journal reference:

Simon, E.B., et al. (2022) Sleep loss leads to the withdrawal of human helping across individuals, groups, and large-scale societies. PLOS Biology. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3001733.

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