Your “Duh” for the Day: Lack of Sleep Intensifies Anger

Photo: Getty Images/Tara Moore
You might want to take a seat for this news confirming everything you know to be true: According to a recently published small study, lack of sleep makes you more irritable. WHO KNEW, RIGHT? The research, conducted by Iowa State University, claims to be the first of its kind to crystalize this specific finding since previous studies have only linked sleep and anger, but not the causal relationship. (As in, it used to be unclear whether anger disrupted sleep or lack of sleep lent itself to an anger uptick.) So yes, you can now feel scientifically vindicated the next time those zzz’s evade you for one reason or another, and you find yourself with white knuckles as you try to not rip off the head of your slow-as-molasses barista.

To get these super-obvious results, the small study's 142 participants were randomly sorted into two groups—one would maintain normal sleep, and the other would restrict sleep duration by two to four hours a night. Both before and after the measured night of sleep, the participants' reactions to anger-provoking irritants were recorded. Barking dog? Check. An uncomfortable shirt? You got it. And yep, sleep deprived people were less adept at rolling with the punches unaffected. Shocking right?

What would have been super-interesting to note, however, is how angry/sleepy people react to other types of stressors. You know—the ones that now seem to infiltrate our lives on a daily basis. For example, how might your reaction to a troubling tweet from a certain world leader change depending on whether you're sleepy or well-rested? If you're able to clock in a full eight hours, are you able to just smirk to yourself and move on? And are you more likely to throw your laptop across the room at the sight of it if you're extra exhausted? (Should Apple perhaps start selling "exhaustion-related rage insurance" as an add-on to AppleCare?) I'd love to know those kinds of results—ones that might actually urge me to prioritize my snooze time, because I can't anymore with how angry the world itself has been making me feel lately.

If I could be blaming my sorry-at-best reactions to ghosting and ignored Tinder messages on lack of sleep, my entire outlook on dating might well change.

And how about measuring reactions to getting ghosted or Tinder messages gone ignored? Because if I could be blaming my sorry-at-best reactions to those plights on lack of sleep, my entire outlook on dating might well change.

There are, of course, other evidence-rich reasons to make sure you’re clocking in a hearty night of sleep on the reg. Take for instance the intel that quality sleep makes exercise more effective. (Although I'd bet there's something to be said about rage workouts resulting from lack of sleep. Maybe?) Snoozing the healthy amount also helps to keep you focused at work. In fact, sleep deprivation has been shown to have the same effect on the brain as too much alcohol does. And seriously—doesn’t that piss you off even more? All I can think about right now is the money I've spent on wine that I could have just saved in favor of sleeping for the exact same brain-altering effect.

So, to sum up, just make sure you’re doing what you know you should and get a good night’s sleep. Because—duh—not doing so will make you very angry.

Good news: If you do end up in sleep debt, it's possible to pay it back on the weekends. And there are some genetic lottery winners who simply don't need much sleep.

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