There’s a sharp downside to being an extrovert, new findings show. The effects of sleep deprivation are worse for the naturally outgoing than for socially-reluctant homebodies.
A study published in the November issue of the journal SLEEP brings to light how our social lives can affect how we function without sleep. Frequent interaction with others also makes sleep deprivation worse.
Each of the 48 participants, aged 18 to 39, took a personality type test prior to the start of the study. Test results determined that 23 were extroverts and 25 were introverts.
After a full night of sleep, participants were required to stay awake for a total of 36 hours. After a few hours of baseline testing, half of the participants spent 12 hours with their peers playing interactive games and puzzles, watching movies and having group discussions. The others completed similar activities while alone in their private rooms. Following social time, the participants spent 22 hours of designated sleep deprivation.
Throughout the study, each person was tested every hour for the effects of sleep deprivation. Testing alternated between a test for motors skills and reaction and a test for ability to stay awake.
Extroverts suffered more than anyone from the effects sleep deprivation during every hour of testing. Introverts had an easier time staying awake and had better reaction times. Extroverts who were denied social contact actually did better in the tests than those who were allowed to socialize.
Authors of the study believe high levels of social stimulation may increase the need for sleep because social interactions lead to rapid fatigue in brain regions that regulate attention and alertness.
Introverts may be genetically built to resist sleep deprivation because they have naturally higher levels of cortical arousal.
The findings may have implication for job that requires long periods of wakefulness, such as military personnel. The authors of the study suggest managers may want to consider social personality when scheduling lengthy team assignments or independent work.