Want To Impress Your Partner This Valentine’s Day? Get Enough Sleep
The most commonly discussed side effects of sleep deprivation are health and performance related. Most people know that not sleeping enough plummets their immune function, makes their thoughts fuzzy, and makes them more likely to make silly mistakes at work. With Valentine’s day right around the corner, we thought we’d focus on how inadequate sleep affects your ability to relate to the people you care about.
Even one night of tossing and turning can negatively affect your ability to empathize, keep your cool during a fight, and even appreciate someone’s sense of humour. Moreover, in contrast with deficits in attention and motor control, relational problems caused by a loss of sleep cannot be bandaged with the use of stimulants like caffeine.
Most people report feeling unusually down after a bad night of sleep, with a tendency to dwell on negative events, and even have trouble reacting normally to positive ones. Who hasn’t snapped at an unsuspecting loved one while exhausted, or found themselves underwhelmed by good news?
Researchers have studied this phenomenon and found that sleep has a direct effect on the parts of your brain responsible for producing emotional responses to environmental cues. Sleep-deprived people in a clinical setting have exaggerated emotions across the board, including reactions to neutral stimuli that evoke no response in well-rested people. This is why it’s so easy to blow things out of proportion when you haven’t gotten enough rest.
The ability to identify with someone else’s point of view — in the broad sense of the term, to empathize with them — is arguably the cornerstone of any healthy interaction, whether it be romantic, friendly, or professional. Empathy is a complex, high-level cognitive function that demands significant resources from the brain. Insufficient sleep has been shown to affect such complex brain functions, and empathy is no exception. A study showed that just one night of sleep deprivation significantly decreased measures of emotional empathy, and another showed that romantically involved partners are far less accurate in identifying one another’s emotional states during a conflict.
Empathy is not the only high-level relational skill affected by a lack of sleep. Interpreting humour is also a demanding activity for your brain. If you think your partner is hilarious, you’ll probably be less impressed with their jokes after a bad night of sleep. Verbal humour, in particular, is seriously affected by sleep loss. Interestingly, stimulants like caffeine and dextroamphetamine improve appreciation of cartoon stimuli but have no effect on correcting your ability to understand verbal humour.
Take it straight from the science — being well-rested extends far beyond your physical health and cognitive performance. It has a direct effect on the people you love. All this goes to show that this Valentine’s day, we should prioritize getting enough sleep above getting the perfect dinner reservation and box of chocolates.