Reiterating the importance of sleep 

That sleep deprivation is harmful to man’s health is no news, but scientists say poor sleep does more than diminish our health. 

What else does it do? 

Sleep deficiency has since been linked to heart disease and other health challenges, but scientists now say that our tendency to be kind may be dependent on how much sleep we get. In a report published in PLOS Biology on Tuesday, August 23, researchers said that inadequate sleep affects our social behavior, including how generous we are. “Lack of sleep shapes the social experiences we have [and] the kinds of societies we live in,” said Eti Ben Simon, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Berkeley. 

What’s the link to generosity? 

The researchers say that the fatigue that results from a lack of adequate sleep could reduce how generous we are. In an experiment to determine the link between sleep loss and generosity, the researchers found that the hours of sleep lost in the switch over to Daylight Savings Time every spring seems to reduce people’s tendency to help others. In the research, they found that average donations to one U.S.-based nonprofit organization dropped by about 10% in the workweek after the time switch, compared to four weeks before and four weeks after the change. 

How did they link the influence of sleep to the participants’ behavior? 

To test the influence of sleep on the participants, the researchers first brought 23 young adults into the lab for two nights. The participants were made to sleep through one night and stay awake for another night. In the mornings, participants completed a standardized altruism questionnaire rating their likelihood of helping strangers or acquaintances in various situations. With 1 for least likely to help and 5 for most likely, participants rated on a scale from 1 to 5, whether they would give up their seat on a bus to a stranger or offer a ride to a coworker in need. 

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In the outcome, about 80% of participants showed less likelihood of helping others when they were sleep-deprived than when they had more sleep time. And with the help of a functional MRI machine, the researchers found that sleep deprivation reduced activity in a network of brain regions linked to the ability to empathize with others. The researchers also observed that donations remained unchanged in Arizona and Hawaii, where Daylight Savings Time is not observed. 

Adequate sleep makes the world a better place.

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