Lack of sleep can change your generosity, according to this American study

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OWhat determines how generous you are? Could it be how much money you have? How nice are you? Or maybe it depends on your values. All of these assumptions sound reasonable, but a new study from the University of Berkeley suggests that something as trivial as the quality of your recent sleep can also affect your willingness to help others on any given day. He found that sleep deprivation leads to reduced generosity.

The researchers tested people’s kindness when they were tired in three different ways. In the first study, they deprived 21 volunteers of sleep for 24 hours and then asked them how willing they would be to help in a series of scenarios, such as helping a stranger carry their shopping bags.

They asked participants to repeat the altruism questionnaire after a normal night’s sleep. The researchers also studied the brain activity levels of the 21 participants using fMRI imaging.

Then, 171 volunteers recruited online kept a diary of their sleep before answering the same questionnaire. For both experiments, researchers found that fatigued participants scored lower on the altruism questionnaire. This was the case regardless of the participants’ empathy traits and whether the person they were supposed to help was a stranger or someone familiar.

Finally, the researchers analyzed more than 3.8 million charitable donations made in the United States before and after the daylight saving time change, which causes everyone to lose an hour of sleep. Donations were down 10% in the days after the clock change compared to the weeks before and after the transition.

fMRI imaging analysis revealed that sleep deprivation appears to be linked to reduced activity in the area of ​​the brain related to social cognition, which regulates our social interactions with others. The change in brain activity was not related to sleep quality, only quantity. The good news is that this effect is short-lived and disappears once we return to our normal sleep pattern.

What the research says

It has long been established that sleep is essential to many aspects of our health and well-being. This was famously demonstrated in 1959, when American DJ Peter Tripp stayed up to broadcast live from New York’s Times Square for 201 hours continuously. Peter’s record was broken in 1964 by Randy Gardner, a teenager who stayed awake for 260 hours (almost 11 days) for a school science fair project.

Randy and Peter appeared well throughout their experiments. But as the challenge progressed, they began to scramble their speech, were confused at times, and struggled with simple tasks such as reciting the alphabet.

Both also had vivid hallucinations. Peter saw cobwebs in his shoes and thought a desk drawer had caught fire.

We now know that sleep deprivation is linked to mental health issues, including hallucinations and psychosis. Peter and Randy appeared to be recovering from their ordeals, but research shows that severe, long-term sleep deprivation can lead to lasting neurological problems.

Since the stunts of Peter and Randy, research has shown that sleep deprivation affects most aspects of our behavior, including our basic thinking skills, such as memory and decision-making. In 1988, the Association of Professional Sleep Societies published a report in the journal Sleep, warning that poor sleep leads to an increased risk of accidents, such as a traffic collision or a DIY accident at home.

A 2015 study compared the number of fatal traffic accidents in the United States right after daylight saving time when the clocks go forward and we lose an hour of sleep and found a significant increase in number of accidents the following day.

Everything becomes clear

Psychologists believe that kindness and generosity are part of our social cognition, a complex set of processes that control how we interact with others and how we make decisions about our behavior towards them.

These decisions are based on many factors. Each of these factors is affected by the quality of our sleep. our memory, all aspects of the memory of previous situations, the quality of our decisions, our impulsivity and above all our emotions and our ability to regulate them. It is to be expected that the amount of money we are willing to give will also be sensitive to sleep.

So the next time a friend asks you to donate for their marathon fundraiser, sleep on it.

Laura Boubert, lecturer in psychology, University of Westminster

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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