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.