How Sleep Deprivation is Linked to Social Isolation?

Topics: Healthy Sleep, sleeping problem, sleep deprivation

Gaining a restful night of sleep keeps you fit and active. When you catch on to the recommended 7 to 8 hours of rest, your mind and body stay alert aiding you in smoothly accomplishing your tasks. However, if this does not happen and you find yourself tossing and turning in your bed night after night, it can indicate sleep deprivation.

How Sleep Deprivation

Sleep-deprived people feel tired, irritable, and face difficulty remembering things. They become vulnerable to numerous diseases like diabetes, depression, and impaired cognitive functioning. Apart from these aspects, sleep deprivation is also linked to social isolation and loneliness. Lack of sleep makes people socially unappealing and less eager to interact with others. Let us find out how this works in the upcoming sections!

How lack of sleep impacts the desire to interact with others? 

In a study published in the journal Nature Communications, it was found that people who fail to catch on to sleep feel lonely and socially inactive. Also, they are perceived as a less desirable company by well-rested people. To arrive at this conclusion, 18 healthy adults and 1033 observers were recruited. The 18 participants were divided into two groups, where one group got a regular night's sleep, and the other was made to stay awake through the night.

Afterwards, the participants were asked to watch short videos showing people with neutral expressions walking towards them. The viewers were asked to pause the video when the person on the screen came too close. The exercise revealed that people who did not rest well were more likely to keep others at a distance than their well-rested peers. The brain scans conducted during the research showed that people from the sleep-deprived group registered threatening human presence when looking at the screen. At the same time, they also had low activity levels in the other part of their brains responsible for gauging the intent and emotions of self and others.

These findings show how sleep deprivation makes people incapable of assessing social situations. As a result, people feel uneasy while interacting with others leading to social withdrawal.

Dr Chris Winter, a neurologist at Charlottesville Neurology, observed that lack of sleep impairs the social drive in many people. It affects the desire to interact with others, the capacity to understand social cues, the capability to concentrate on what people around you are saying, and the ability to derive pleasure from communications. In addition to this, someone who hasn't rested well also feels an overwhelming desire to choose to go to bed over hanging out with friends.

How does sleep deprivation make you socially unappealing?

As part of the study mentioned above, researchers also conducted a test to find out how well-rested individuals perceive people who lack sleep. For this, the 1033 observers were shown a video of the sleep-deprived individuals talking and discussing topics. Later, the viewers were asked to rate how lonely they thought the sleep-deprived individuals were and if they wished to interact with them. The results showed that people who have rested well were not very keen or excited to talk to the participants.

In another phrase, the observers were asked to rate how lonely they were after watching the video's sleep-deprived people. Unsurprisingly, most of the spectators reported feeling lonely and isolated. This shows that not only do sleep-deprived people appear socially unattractive and lonely to normal people, but that loneliness is contagious.

In short, from this study, it can be concluded that less sleep makes you less likely to engage with others. Also, it makes you socially repulsive, further increasing your chances of social withdrawal. Altogether, this cycle can become a contributing factor towards the health crisis that is loneliness.

Tips to sleep better

  • Limit exposure to light

During the nighttime, it is recommended to limit your exposure to blue light. It is so because exposure to light tricks your brain into believing that it is still day, which, in turn, affects your circadian rhythm. This reduces the production of hormones like melatonin responsible for relaxing you so that you can fall into a deep slumber. Thus, it is advised to turn off your smartphones and computers at least 2 hours before your sleep time.

  • Reduce irregular naps

While short power naps are beneficial for your body, snoozing untimely and irregularly is not good. It is so because if you sleep through the day, it may confuse your internal clock. Also, this way, by the time the day ends, you won't feel tired. Thus, irregular naps can prevent you from sleeping well at night.

  • Sleep and wake at a consistent time 

Following a regular timetable not only makes you disciplined but helps you sleep better. The reason behind this is when you sleep and wake up at a consistent time, your circadian rhythm is better managed. In contrast, irregular sleep patterns and going to bed late at night at weekends affect your sleep quality.

  • Take a sleep test

If you cannot sleep well despite following the above recommendations, you should book a sleep test. It will help you find out if you have any sleep disorder like sleep apnea that interferes with your rest. Once you know the real cause of your sleeping troubles, you will find it easy to search for an appropriate cure.

In addition to affecting your physical and mental well-being, lack of sleep can also make you socially inactive and lonely. It can make you less motivated to interact with others and more unappealing to well-rested people.


If this article captured your interest, you'll definitely enjoy our follow-up piece - Sleep Deprivationwhy sleep is important, and Sleep Deprivation and Hormonal Imbalance.

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