Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Body Language of Sleep: How Sleep Deprivation Can Impair Recognition of Human Emotions

A new study in the journal SLEEP found that sleep deprivation might dull a person’s ability to judge facial expressions.

Past studies have found that this fragmented sleep can cause excessive daytime sleepiness, memory loss and poor cognitive function. Now, researchers believe that OSA might even affect patients’ ability to read facial expressions.

The study included 37 healthy participants, of which 21 were female. There ages ranged from 18 to 25 years old. Seventeen participants were randomly assigned to the control sleep control group (SC). The remaining 20 participants formed the total sleep deprivation group (TSD).

Members of both groups were asked to evaluate sad, happy and angry facial expressions. The expressions ranged from neutral to increasingly emotional.

The SC group took the test twice after sleep-rested conditions. The TSD group took the test once while sleep deprived and twice under sleep-rested conditions. The TSD participants did not sleep for 40 hours before their sleep-deprived test.

After sleep deprivation, the TSD was less able to acutely identify human emotions – specifically anger and happiness. Women were more affected than men were by sleep deprivation.

Many people with OSA think that they get the recommend hours of sleep. However, waking up throughout the night to breathe robs them of restorative sleep.

Learn how sleep apnea can affect the brain’s composition here.

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The Official Blog of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) is intended as an information source only. Content of this blog should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment, and it is not a substitute for medical care, which should be provided by the appropriate health care professional. If you suspect you have a sleep-related breathing disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you should consult your personal physician or visit an AASM-accredited sleep disorders center. The AADSM, and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, as the managing agent of the AADSM, assume no liability for the information contained on the Official Blog of the AADSM or for its use.