Sleep dictates behavior? (Yikes!)

I’m always extolling the benefits of sleep.

As a doctor, I’ve seen firsthand the physical, mental, and emotional health problems that arise simply because patients are struggling with insomnia.

And the situation is dire: One in three Americans struggle to get quality, restorative sleep night after night.

But now researchers are finding that too little sleep might actually alter human behavior… ultimately affecting those around us, too.

Sleep and selfishness

In a recent study published in the journal PLOS Biology, researchers analyzed 24 healthy volunteers after eight hours of sleep, and again after a sleepless night.

Using functional magnetic resonance image (fMRI) scans, they found that a certain area of the brain was less active after a sleepless night.

What does the area control?

Your ability to empathize with others.

In other words, poor sleep might be your own worst enemy. Not only will it affect your own mental and physical health, but it can interfere with your social relationships.

In fact, Matthew Walker, a University of California, Berkeleyprofessor of psychology, explained that “a lack of sleep makes people less empathetic, less generous, more socially withdrawn, and it’s infectious—there is a contagion of loneliness.”

And that lack of socialization can plummet your health even further…

Poor sleep, loneliness, and depression

A large study looked at more than 3,000 people in the U.K., aged 50 years or older. Subjects were participants of the existing PROTECT online study, which started in 2011 and currently has 25,000 participants.

This study was initially designed to look at the factors behind healthy aging, but researchers added a new questionnaire to examine the impact of COVID-19 on feelings of loneliness.

The study is ongoing, but here’s what surveys have shown thus far…

Before the pandemic hit, over the course of two weeks, lonely people reported symptoms of depression for at least “several” days. But these symptoms took a serious upswing during lockdown—with lonely people reporting depressive symptoms during more than half the days of the previous two weeks. Or, they reported a new symptom that lasted several days or more.

Meanwhile, people who weren’t lonely reported no difference in depression symptoms at all.

Bottom line? Lack of sleep can interfere with social interactions and increase feelings of loneliness. In turn, loneliness can increase feelings of depression.

So, aim to get better sleep. Your relationship with others should improve, alongside your personal health and happiness.

I always suggest seven to nine hours of shuteye each night. For an easy, drug-free plan to reach this goal, check out my Perfect Sleep Protocol.

Until next week,
Dr. Fred


“Sleepless and selfish: Lack of sleep makes us less generous.” ScienceDaily, 08/23/2022. (