Yet another reason to get a good night’s sleep

If you’re not convinced about the importance of getting a good night’s sleep, perhaps this quote from a Harvard Medical School report might help: “Sleeping fewer than about eight hours per night on a regular basis seems to increase the risk of developing a number of medical conditions. And that reducing sleep by just two or three hours per night can have dramatic health consequences.”1

Just to add to that burden, a recent study has just shown that it might make you more selfish and less human.2

Although it doesn’t always seem that way, humans are designed to help each other.2 It’s what separates us from other species and responsible for the development and maintenance of modern civilisations2. (Note the prefix ‘civil’, capturing the two meanings – relating to ordinary citizens and being courteous and polite)

Could a lack of sleep interrupt this basic human trait and impair our motivation to help others? Apparently, yes.

One of the authors of the study had the following to say:

“This new work demonstrates that a lack of sleep not only damages the health of an individual, but degrades social interactions between individuals and, furthermore, degrades the very fabric of human society itself.

How we operate as a social species—and we are a social species—seems profoundly dependent on how much sleep we are getting.”3

The study looked at three different aspects of behaviour after sleep loss:2

  • Empathy for others (on an individual, one-to-one basis)
  • The desire to help others during day-to-day interactions
  • The desire to be altruistic and donate to charitable causes

All three aspects were impacted by lack of sleep. The researchers found the following:3

  • The areas of the brain important for empathy and understanding others were less active after a sleepless night
  • A significant decrease in the desire to help other people from one day to the next
  • Even a small loss of sleep (as little as one hour) had a measurable impact on people’s generosity

The study authors also concluded that a lack of sleep makes people less likely to engage with others, potentially compounding the problem of loneliness.3

Tips for a better night’s sleep

Better sleep hygiene is a great starting point.

Good sleep hygiene is a term used to describe the habits that will help you sleep well, or at least help increase the chances of you getting a good night’s rest.

  • Establish a sleep routine
    Try going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Your body and mind will soon get used to the habit
  • A screen-free zone
    Devices, TVs and laptops have no place in the bedroom. The blue light emitted by electronic devices stimulates your brain, so try and avoid it close to bedtime.
  • Relax before you rest
    Try and get into the habit of doing something relaxing before heading to bed. Many people find that a warm shower or bath helps. Try not to think about problems you need to solve. Maybe even learn how to meditate
  • Avoid caffeine or alcoholic drinks before bed.
    Alcohol can make you drowsy, but it has been shown to disrupt your natural sleep cycle.
  • Make your bedroom comfortable and inviting to sleep
    Block out light – light is one of the biggest factors to limit sleep: it inhibits melatonin, the hormone to help you fall and stay asleep.4 If you can’t block light, consider a light blocking mask, such as the Dreamlight masks. They’re comfortable and effective.

In summary, sleep isn’t just important for your health and wellbeing – humanity depends on it. Sleep well and help save civilisation!


  1. https://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/need-sleep/whats-in-it-for-you/health
  2. https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.3001733
  3. https://www.spring.org.uk/2022/10/lack-of-sleep-effect.php
  4. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/melatonin



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