Sleep Loss and Human Helping: Research Brief

Sleep loss leads to the withdrawal of human helping across individuals, groups, and large-scale societies
PLOS Biology, 2022

We all know the importance of getting a good night's sleep, but how does our lack of sleep impact others? This latest study goes beyond the personal benefits of sleep to consider its role in interpersonal harmony and cooperation on a societal level, (Simon et al., 2022).

This study shows individuals deprived of sleep for just one night were less inclined to help others, and sleep deficiency across consecutive days was associated with a reduction in prosocial and altruistic behavior in study participants. Additionally, at Daylight Savings Time in Spring, losing one hour of sleep makes people less likely to donate to charity in the short-term, (Simon et al., 2022). 

Researchers also observed a corresponding decrease in activity in key regions of the social cognition network in the brains of people experiencing sleep loss, (Simon et al., 2022). 

These findings affirm what we in the helping professions already know: By attending to our own sleep hygiene, we put ourselves in the right frame of mind to care for our loved ones and our patients. 

Highlights from the Study

“[I]nsufficient sleep impairs emotional processing, including deficits in emotion recognition and expression, while conversely increasing basic emotional reactivity, further linked to antisocial behavior (such as increased interpersonal conflict and reduced trust in others).”

“The implications of this effect may be non-trivial when considering the essentiality of human helping in the maintenance of cooperative, civil society, combined with the reported decline in sufficient sleep in many first-world nations.” 

 Impact of Sleep In Helping Others

At Feeling Good Institute, we offer an array of effective methods to help patients overcome their sleep challenges and achieve their overall wellness goals. Many of our TEAM-CBT therapists are certified in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-i). 

Learn about the essential skills for effective cognitive behavior therapy and how we set therapists up for success.


Research Brief Author: Barbara Thomas, APCC CA 11797. Supervised by Michael Mikulski, LMFT CA 45124.

Citation: Ben Simon E, Vallat R, Rossi A, Walker MP (2022) Sleep loss leads to the withdrawal of human helping across individuals, groups, and large-scale societies. PLoS Biol 20(8): e3001733.

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