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Sleep Deprivation Messes with Emotions. Thanks A Lot, Neanderthals.

LiveScience is reporting that sleep-deprivation allows our brains to overreact to bad experience.

“While we predicted that the emotional centers of the brain would overreact after sleep deprivation, we didn’t predict they’d overreact as much as they did,” Walker said. “They became more than 60 percent more reactive to negative emotional stimuli. That’s a whopping increase the emotional parts of the brain just seem to run amok.”

Apparently this absurd response is a more primitive reaction to sleep loss. This makes sense to me. A caveman out hunting mammoth until 4 AM is bound to be a little cranky when he comes home to find his wife ate the last of the rat-n-snake stew. Or he wakes up the next morning only to learn that local Neanderthal vandals chipped away at his wheel in the early morning. Argh! If only our caveman had gotten a little more sleep…

“When we’re sleep deprived, it’s really as if the brain is reverting to more primitive behavior, regressing in terms of the control humans normally have over their emotions,” researcher Matthew Walker, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Berkeley, told LiveScience.