Lack of sleep can make others look less attractive to you, study shows

UPPSALA, Sweden — You’ve likely heard of beer goggles, but how about sleep goggles? This phenomenon actually does the opposite of what booze does, however. According to a recent study, lack of sleep could be interfering in your love life — because it makes others look less attractive.

Not getting enough shut-eye alters the way we see others, and not in a good way, say researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden. The finding could have great implications for bar-going singles who are are routinely sleep deprived.

Using eye-tracking technology that can detect what a person is looking at in real time, the team studied 45 young men and women. Participants spent one night with no sleep at all and one night with an eight-hour sleep opportunity. Their eye movements were measured in the mornings following both nights.

“The finding that sleep-deprived subjects in our experiment rated angry faces as less trustworthy and healthy-looking and neutral and fearful faces as less attractive indicates that sleep loss is associated with more negative social impressions of others,” says senior author Christian Benedict, an associate professor of neuroscience, in a statement. “This could result in less motivation to interact socially.”

The researchers explain that sleep deprivation seems to cause people to spend less time “fixating” on others faces. This, in turn, has a detrimental effect on the way we perceive others.

“When sleep-deprived, our research subjects spent less time fixating on faces. Since facial expressions are crucial to understanding the emotional state of others, spending less time fixating on faces after acute sleep loss may increase the risk that you interpret the emotional state of others inaccurately or too late,” says first author and doctoral student Lieve van Egmond, from the Department of Surgical Sciences at the university. “Our participants were young adults, thus, we do not know whether our results are generalisable to other age groups. Moreover, we do not know if similar results would be seen among those suffering from chronic sleep loss.”

The findings are published in the journal Nature and Science of Sleep.

South West News Service writer Jim Leffman contributed to this report.


  1. “This could result in less motivation to interact socially.” Thats correct. If I have not slept any in the last 24 hours, I am not interested in much of anything except getting some sleep. What is surprising about that?

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