Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Sleep-Deprived Have You in Their Sights

If someone you know isn’t getting enough sleep, don’t be sympathetic. Don’t offer to help. Don’t even talk to the person. Just back slowly out of the room and then run for the hills. Why? Because that person is looking for a target, and you don’t want it to be you.

This is the conclusion from a recent study of sleep-deprived college kids and how they mishandle everyday situations because they’re overtired.

If you’re thinking, “Wow, sounds like a group of college professors came up with that study,” you’re right. An associate professor of psychology at the University of Arkansas chaired the research.

As an adjunct professor of freshman composition myself, I can attest that this is only fitting. College students don’t get enough sleep. College students are frequently ornery. In fact, if I were doing the study myself, I probably would have investigated whether college students blame everyone else for their problems simply because they’re college students. (Perhaps I’ve taught too long.)

But someone else was in charge of the research, and he decided to focus on the lack of sleep as the reason (or excuse?) for bad boy and girl behavior.

The study’s results indicate that people who are sleep-deprived engage in what is called counterfactual thinking—thoughts that are simply untrue. Among laymen, of course, this is called delusional thinking. But that term is so critical, so harsh, so violence-provoking. Counterfactual sounds much fluffier, like a soft pillow and blanket.

And that’s what you want when you’re dealing with overtired people, because if you tick them off, they’re likely to take your head off.

As the authors of the study point out, you can expect far worse behavior than eye-rolling in the Wal-Mart line from people who are getting too little shut-eye. That cop pulling you over? If he’s overtired, he might nail you with a bigger ticket than usual. And if your boss is too sleepy at review time, you might be getting the boot instead of the corner office. All because of a lack of rest.

The study’s conclusion: You need to get enough sleep. I couldn’t agree more. Everyone knows that after lunch, you need a good snooze. Now, you can justify building that little bed nook under your desk, just like George Costanza did.

Maybe this study is even the answer to the zombie apocalypse. After all, if you’re a zombie, then you’re spending your time eating brains, moaning a lot, and lurching around parking lots with your arms out in front of you like Frankenstein. But when’s the last time you took a nap? Not since you were alive, right? No wonder zombies are so cranky and so determined to attack the living. They’re just not getting enough rest. That can be solved with sleeping pills and a good eye mask. Think about it.

But for the time-being, we can all expect people to continue to be sleep-deprived. Our culture encourages it. Employers don’t compensate for it. And the zombies don’t take meds. So, there’s only one real way to avoid becoming a target:

Sleep with one eye open.

For more on the actual sleep study, read about it here: Sleep Study

Copyright © 2011 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.


  1. Interesting study. I love my sleep and try to get a good night's sleep on a regular basis. However, there are no naps for me during the day no matter how much I'd love one. Maybe one day, I'll have to pull a George and give it a try! (And I have to admit, I tend to get a little cranky when I haven't had enough sleep)

  2. Interesting post. Please check out my blog.

  3. I get very cranky when I'm tired too. But I recognize it, which makes it easier not to "act out" and attack others. The study didn't address that part of the equation. Oh well.

    Bob, I'll definitely check out your blog. Thanks!


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