Though some people wear sleep deprivation as a badge of honor (looking at you, Donald Trump), new research suggests that not getting enough shuteye actually makes you look, well, stupid.
According to the study, published in Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, the facial expressions typically associated with sleep-deprived people, such as droopy eyelids, are interpreted by others as signs of lesser intelligence. Meaning, those who want to impress their bosses, professors or teachers with their smarts would do well by just sleeping.
Researchers at the University of St. Andrews in England conducted the study in several phases.
Participants viewed photos of 100 adults and 90 children and rated how intelligent they looked. Using software that measures facial differences, study scientists determined that those whose eyelids were more open in the photo — no matter how subtly — were perceived as being more intelligent.
Researchers wanted to determine whether natural changes in eyelid-openness (i.e., being sleepy) affected people’s perceptions of intelligence. To do this, they worked with a sleep laboratory in Sweden to take photos of people after both a night of normal sleep and a night of restricted sleep. As expected, sleep restriction made the people more likely to have droopy eyelids.
When these photos were shown to another group of participants, they perceived those with droopy eyelids — which had been brought on by a lack of sleep — as appearing less intelligent. Other facial cues, such as slight downturns in mouth curvatures, were also interpreted as unintelligent. Of these facial cues, however, only droopy eyelids were associated with sleep deprivation.
“While the differences are extremely subtle (and perhaps almost unnoticeable to the naked eye), the fact that perceptions of intelligence were changed with such subtle differences is impressive,” study author Sean Talamas, a researcher in the School of Psychology and Neurosciences Perception Laboratory, told Van Winkle’s.
Talamas said he is curious whether this information will inspire individuals to make changes to their sleep now that they know it affects their appearance.
“In previous studies in our lab, my colleagues have found that, in attempting to change their diet, telling people that fruit and vegetable consumption can influence their skin color and appearance to look more attractive is sometimes more effective than telling them how fruit and consumption affects their health,” Talamas said.
“We now know the great impact that subtle differences in sleep can have on appearance, [but] we still don’t know if this will encourage better sleep behavior,” he said.
This is not the first time a study has observed sleep deprivation and appearance. Swedish researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm (the same institute that provided the sleep deprivation photos for this new study) found that sleep-deprived people are perceived by people as being less attractive.
Got that? Not getting enough sleep makes people look dumb and ugly. As if we needed more reasons to love sleep.