FRIDAY, June 7 (HealthDay News) -- You may have heard of "beer
goggles" -- a sly way of describing how people seem to become less
picky about potential sex partners when they've had a few drinks.
Now, a new study suggests something similar happens to men when
they're sleepy: They're slightly more likely to interpret signals
from women as sexual come-ons.
"Sleepy men think women are more interested in them than when the men are not sleepy. We don't know why," said study lead author Jennifer Peszka, an associate professor of psychology at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark.
The findings, based on responses to surveys instead of real-life
encounters, aren't definitive and don't say whether the men are
accurately reading women's signals. And it's unclear if sleepy men
would be more likely to inappropriately pursue women they believe
to be sexually interested in them.
In the big picture, the study raises questions about whether
sleep has the same perception-dulling effects on men as alcohol,
"If you're a man and you're sleepy, you could make a mistake in judging whether someone's interested in you," Peszka said. Sleepiness had no effect on women's perceptions of whether men were interested in them, but Peszka had a message for them, too: Since sleepy men "could make a mistake, you need to be very clear about what you want."
In the study, researchers recruited 60 college students and
asked them to take surveys before and after they were deprived of
sleep. To make them tired, the researchers kept them up for 24
hours past the time they arrived at the lab (5 p.m.).
The surveys presented different scenarios to the students and
asked them to judge the motivation of the opposite gender. For
example, a male student would be asked to gauge the likelihood that
a woman wants to have sex with him if she puts her hand on his
thigh. Or they might get a question like "When a woman goes out to
a bar, how likely is it that she is interested in finding someone
to have sex with that night?"
On a scale of 1 to 7, with higher numbers translating more
interest, nonsleepy men ranked the "sexual intent" of women as
4.58. But when they were sleepy, the number grew to 5.06.
By contrast, women's perception of men's sexual interest (5.22
on 1-to-7 scale) stayed about the same.
What's going on? Peszka suspects that the effect of sleepiness
on the frontal lobe of the brain, which controls things such as
decision-making and control of emotions, could be a major
Lisa Fucito, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale
University School of Medicine who studies alcohol use and sleep,
said lack of sleep can have effects similar to those of
Sleep deprivation narrows attention, slows the brain's
processing speed and hurts short-term memory, she said. "When our
attention is narrowed, we tend to lose sight of other pertinent
information when making a decision."
Still, Fucito cautioned that the differences in the survey
responses between the sleepy and nonsleepy men may not be
"More research is needed before we could conclude that sleep deprivation influences male's perceptions of women's sexual interest," she said. For now, Fucito added, "the safety messages we tell women would remain."
Study author Peszka said future research should aim to see if
the study results hold up in real-life situations when men and
women encounter each other.
The study abstract was published online recently in the journal
Sleepand it was presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of
the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Baltimore.
For more about
sleep, try the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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