Pulling an all-nighter in college is basically a rite of passage -- but in turn, apparently, so is being a cranky asshat the next day.
A new study from Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and Tel Aviv University found that a sleepless night could actually alter your ability to handle emotions and keep your feelings in check in everyday life situations.
In the study, 18 volunteers were asked to memorize sets of numbers despite being shown distracting images -- some of images unpleasant, some of them neutral -- that forced the volunteers to control their emotions in order to get the job done, all while researchers monitored their brain activity with MRI and EEG scans. The volunteers each performed the task after a good night’s sleep and then again after being kept awake for 24 consecutive hours. As you might imagine, the brain scans detected some interesting differences.
When the participants were well-rested, researchers saw strong reactions in the parts of the brain that process and regulate emotions when they were shown the negative images, and when they were shown the neutral images, there was no emotional response. But after being awake for 24 hours, the people had strong reactions to both the negative and neutral images, suggesting the lack of sleep reduced the brain’s threshold for emotional reactions.
Ultimately, the authors of the study said missing out on a night’s sleep could cause people to overreact when dealing with everyday challenges and that there could be a connection between sleep deprivation and anxiety disorders. In other words, calm the hell down and get some rest, guys.
“Studies have shown that losing emotional neutrality is a hallmark symptom of anxiety disorders,” Eti Ben-Simon and Talma Hendler, the study’s main authors, said in a press release. “These findings support a long-standing observation in sleep research that demonstrates how people become increasingly anxious without sleep.”
Well, that explains a lot.
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Tony Merevick is Cities News Editor at Thrillist and has probably demonstrated these effects, and for that, he is sorry. Send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @tonymerevick.