How Lack of Sleep Affects your People Skills

With psychology suggesting lack of sleep can lead to lower levels of empathy and higher levels of irritability, never has it been more important to get enough shut-eye.

If you’ve watched this week’s Meetology® Minute you’ll know that what I am about to say is true – I am feeling and looking shattered. I’m in the US and, whilst it normally isn’t an issue, for some reason on this trip I am really struggling to sleep enough and am paying the price.

Now, if you’re a regular viewer / reader, you may recall that the effects of sleep deprivation is a subject that I touched on 6 month ago when the clocks went forward and I highlighted some fascinating research that suggested that, in court, a sleep-deprived judge was likely to give a harsher sentence to a convicted criminal. This time I have a couple of additional, equally fascinating insights.

The first one suggests that the negative effect of the lack of sleep to your physical appearance can make people less likely to want to interact with you. The research in question comes from Stockholm, Sweden where 122 volunteers were asked to rate 25 pictures of people – some who’d slept well and others who hadn’t. Whilst some aspects such as trustworthiness weren’t affected, those rating the photos said they were less likely to want to socialise with those who  looked tired, and they considered them less attractive and less healthy too.

The second insight comes from research undertaken by psychologists at the University of California in San Francisco which suggested that, when sleep deprived, we are less accurate in judging the emotions of others. This, of course, is a crucial skill when it comes to social interaction as inaccurately interpreting someone’s feeling of happiness towards you as jealousy won’t help you interact as well as you could have!

With other studies suggesting that lack of sleep makes people less optimistic, less empathetic and more irritable, I think this interesting area deserved to be highlighted again and I very much hope that, by the time I return next week, I have had far more sleep than I have managed in the last one!

I hope this week’s insight proves of practical use and I’ll be back next week with some more meetology® – helping you thrive professionally and personally by making people skills one of your superpowers.

Have a good week,


Jonathan Bradshaw
The Meetology® Lab


Sundelin, T., Lekander, M., Sorjonen, K., & Axelsson, J. (2017). Negative effects of restricted sleep on facial appearance and social appeal. Royal Society Open Science, 4(5), 160918.

Gordon, Amie M., Wendy Berry Mendes, and Aric A. Prather. “The Social Side of Sleep: Elucidating the Links Between Sleep and Social Processes.” Current Directions in Psychological Science (2017)




About the Author:

Jonathan Bradshaw presents and trains internationally on the fascinating psychology powering exceptional interpersonal communication. He is Founder of the Meetology® Lab and leads the company’s team of behavioral psychologists in collating and sharing cutting-edge research on exceptional people skills. As an experienced and engaging keynote speaker Jon has presented at conferences and business events in over 30 countries and is an award-winning columnist and blogger. Learn more about him speaking at your next event via or connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.