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[ZZZ POWER] Less sleep makes people less likely to help others

Sleep loss - whether it’s a night of sleep deprivation, natural sleep variation, or just a single hour of sleep lost for a whole society (i.e., daylight saving time) - can cause people to withdraw their decision to help others in need, according o a recent study from the University of California, Berkeley. The study shows that this behavior is associated with reduced activity in the prosocial cognitive network of the brain.

Replicated across three different experiments, the researchers examined how sleep loss affects the willingness to help others. First, individual willingness to help others and brain activity were assessed through a self-reported altruism questionnaire after a night of normal sleep and after a night of sleep deprivation, and these individuals had their brain activity assessed using fMRI imaging.

Second, a group of people completed the altruism questionnaire after keeping sleep diaries evaluating sleep quality and quantity.

Third, donations in the US were determined in the weeks before and after losing an hour of sleep due to daylight saving time.

The fMRI showed that sleep deprivation dampened activity in the social cognition brain network known to be more active during pro-social behaviors. Overall, this impairment was associated with less self-reported desire to help others in the first two experiments. It also was associated with less actual monetary help in the third experiment, which found a 10% drop in donation amounts after the loss of an hour of sleep.

The study indicates that altruistic acts, such as drives to help victims of natural disasters or war, can be hampered by even minor reductions in a society’s sleep. On the flip side, asking people for help or timing donation drives to periods of adequate sleep could make them more effective. The findings highlight adequate sleep as a modifiable factor to promote greater helping.

The authors quote Muhammad Ali: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”

To download the study, “Sleep loss leads to the withdrawal of human helping across individuals, groups, and large-scale societies,” click here

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