During my years as a pre-medical student, medical student and resident physician I experienced countless sleepless nights. There is an odd sensation of drowsy awareness that accompanies being awake for 36 hours. The good news is that the medical profession has cut back on the practice of sleep depriving trainees. The study summarized below evaluates the link between sleep deprivation and attractiveness. The bad news is, I guess, the not terribly surprising insight that sleep deprivation lowers a person’s level of attractiveness.
Sleep deprived people are perceived as less attractive, less healthy, and more tired compared with when they are well rested. Apparent tiredness was strongly related to looking less healthy and less attractive, which was also supported by the mediating analyses, indicating that a large part of the found effects and relations on appearing healthy and attractive were mediated by looking tired. The fact that untrained observers detected the effects of sleep loss in others not only provides evidence for a perceptual ability not previously subjected to experimental control, but also supports the notion that sleep history gives rise to socially relevant signals that provide information about the bearer.
The adaptiveness of an ability to detect sleep related facial cues resonates well with other research, showing that small deviations from the average sleep duration in the long term are associated with an increased risk of health problems and with a decreased longevity. Indeed, even a few hours of sleep deprivation inflict an array of physiological changes, including neural, endocrinological, immunological, and cellular functioning, that if sustained are relevant for long term health. Here, we show that such physiological changes are paralleled by detectable facial changes…
People are capable of detecting sleep loss related facial cues, and these cues modify judgments of another’s health and attractiveness. These conclusions agree well with existing models describing a link between sleep and good health, as well as a link between attractiveness and health. Future studies should focus on the relevance of these facial cues in clinical settings. These could investigate whether clinicians are better than the average population at detecting sleep or health related facial cues, and whether patients with a clinical diagnosis exhibit more tiredness and are less healthy looking than healthy people. Perhaps the more successful doctors are those who pick up on these details and act accordingly