An anonymous reader quotes The Guardian as saying: A study found that losing just one hour of rest can kill people’s desire to help others, even relatives and close friends. The team noted that a bad night seemed to dampen activity in the part of the brain that encourages social behavior. “We found that sleep loss acts as a trigger for antisocial behavior by reducing people’s innate desire to help each other,” said study co-author Professor Matthew Walker from the University of California, Berkeley. “In a sense, the less you sleep, the less social and more selfish you become.” Writing in the journal PLoS Biology, the team suggests that chronic sleep deprivation can damage social bonds and compromise the altruistic instincts that shape societies. “Given the importance of humans helping to maintain cooperative civilized societies, along with the dramatic decline in sleep time over the past 50 years, the implications of these findings are very important for how we shape the societies we want to live in,” Walker said.

The team studied the willingness of 160 participants to help others with an “altruism questionnaire” they completed after a night’s sleep. Participants responded to different social scenarios on a scale from “I would stop to help” to “I would ignore them.” In one experiment involving 24 participants, researchers compared the responses of one person after a good night’s sleep and after 24 hours without sleep. The results showed a 78% decrease in willingness to help others when they are tired. The team then scanned the brains of these participants and found that the short night was associated with reduced activity in the brain’s social cognitive network, an area involved in social behavior. According to the researchers, participants were reluctant to help friends and family, as well as strangers. “Sleep deprivation impairs the desire to help others, whether they are asked to help strangers or close relatives. That is, sleep loss causes antisocial, antihelping behaviors with broad and indiscriminate effects,” Walker said.

To determine whether altruism was affected in the real world, the team tracked more than 3 million charitable donations in the US before and after the clocks were moved forward an hour for daylight saving time, which suggests shorter periods of sleep. They found a 10% drop in donations after the switch. “Our research adds to a growing body of evidence showing that insufficient sleep not only harms an individual’s mental and physical well-being, but also compromises the bonds between people and even the altruistic sentiment of an entire nation,” Walker said. Fortunately, we can catch up. Walker said: “The positive note that emerges from all our research is that when sleep becomes adequate and sufficient, the desire to help others is restored. But it is important to note that it is not only the duration of sleep that is important for helping. We found that the factor , which was most important was the quality of sleep, apart from the quantity of sleep,” he added.

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