You really do need your beauty sleep, researchers have found.
Just two nights of sleep deprivation is enough for your perceived attractiveness to take a huge hit. The researchers, neuroscientists from Stockholm University, controlled how much participants slept and then asked others to rate their attractiveness.
25 healthy university students, both male and female, with no prior sleep issues took part in the experiment. First, they were sleep-deprived, only allowed 4 hours of sleep for two nights. One week later, they slept normally for 8 hours on another two consecutive nights. The researchers photographed each participant after the 4-hour and 8-hour sleep periods.
122 raters then rated the photos for attractiveness, health, sleepiness, trustworthiness, and how much they’d like to get to know the person in the photo. No surprise: the sleep-deprived photos did worse than their normal counterparts on all counts, except trustworthiness.
And not only did the raters deem the sleep-deprived participants as less attractive, but they were also more reluctant to interact with them!
Wait, what does sleep deprivation do to your face?
We subconsciously use cues such as skin tone, gait, and eye openess to gauge a person’s health and attractiveness. But, and this should come as no surprise, being sleep deprived can actually alter your facial features. Sleep deprivation also causes poorer blood flow to the skin, causing a duller and paler skin tone.
“A sleep-deprived, tired-looking face, with dark circles under the eyes and swollen eyelids, is perceived as less attractive and less healthy,” write the researchers.
And because we also – perhaps foolishly – associate attractiveness with positive personal qualities, it’s easy to see why people may perceive a tired-looking person as less sociable and competent.
But that’s not too far off the mark either: sleep-deprived people report feeling less optimistic and sociable. They are also less empathetic, worse at understanding and expressing emotions, and more prone to accidents and falling ill. So perhaps the raters were right in wanting to avoid them!
How much should you be sleeping? Health experts recommend getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep or more. So the next time you’re thinking of sacrificing sleep to finish a project or Netflix binge, think again.