October 22, 2007
Sleep Deficiency Causes Emotional Overreaction

Skimp on the sleep and your emotional control will decay.

Without sleep, the emotional centers of the brain dramatically overreact to negative experiences, reveals a new brain imaging study in the October 23rd issue of Current Biology, a publication of Cell Press. The reason for that hyperactive emotional response in sleep-deprived people stems from a shutdown of the prefrontal lobe—a region that normally keeps emotions under control.

The new study from Harvard Medical School and the University of California, Berkeley is the first to explain, at the neural level, what seems to be a universal phenomenon: that sleep loss leads to emotionally irrational behavior, according to the researchers. The findings might also offer some insight into the clinical connection between sleep disruptions and psychiatric disorders.

Have a hard time controlling your emotions? Get enough sleep. You can't afford to cut corners on your sleep.

Maybe people become more primitive when they lack sleep.

In the new study, Walker’s team assigned 26 healthy people to either a sleep-deprivation group—in which participants were kept awake for about 35 hours—or a normal sleep group. On the following day, the study subjects’ brains were scanned by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which measures brain activity on the basis of blood flow, while viewing 100 images. The images were at first emotionally neutral, but became increasingly aversive over time.

“We had predicted a potential increase in the emotional reaction from the brain [in people deprived of sleep], but the size of the increase truly surprised us,” Walker said of the study’s findings. “The emotional centers of the brain were over 60% more reactive under conditions of sleep deprivation than in subjects who had obtained a normal night of sleep. It is almost as though, without sleep, the brain reverts back to a more primitive pattern of activity, becoming unable to put emotional experiences into context and produce controlled, appropriate responses.

Do we have free will? At best the extent of our free will varies as a function of how much sleep we get, whether we take steroids (roid rage), and countless other influences.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 October 22 09:46 PM  Brain Sleep

Fat Man said at October 22, 2007 10:38 PM:

No kidding?

averros said at October 22, 2007 11:53 PM:

Without being an Official Scientist (tm) I could add that having adequate sex life, and not being hungry do help to maintain emotional control.

Oh, gosh, they just discovered America!

reanimator said at October 23, 2007 6:29 AM:

I'll add [lack of] coffee.... in the long past lack of the morning nic fix too.

Raymond Dziezynski said at August 15, 2008 7:07 PM:

As someone who has the "privelege" of several concurrent pain conditions and accompaning insomnia for a year I can fully atest to this. People who haven't gone through massive sleep deprivation can't understand how fucked up your brain can get.

jon loken said at July 10, 2011 9:24 AM:

Try pressing these points with your nail as hard as you can (or get acupuncture for them):

Shenmen ( HT 7 ), Sanyinjiao (SP 6) + Taixi (K 3)


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