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Cues of fatigue: effects of sleep deprivation on facial appearance
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology. Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Stress Research Institute. Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Stress Research Institute.
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2013 (English)In: Sleep, ISSN 0161-8105, E-ISSN 1550-9109, Vol. 36, no 9, 1355-1360 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

STUDY OBJECTIVE: To investigate the facial cues by which one recognizes that someone is sleep deprived versus not sleep deprived.

DESIGN: Experimental laboratory study.

SETTING: Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.

PARTICIPANTS: Forty observers (20 women, mean age 25 ± 5 y) rated 20 facial photographs with respect to fatigue, 10 facial cues, and sadness. The stimulus material consisted of 10 individuals (five women) photographed at 14:30 after normal sleep and after 31 h of sleep deprivation following a night with 5 h of sleep.

MEASUREMENTS: Ratings of fatigue, fatigue-related cues, and sadness in facial photographs.

RESULTS: The faces of sleep deprived individuals were perceived as having more hanging eyelids, redder eyes, more swollen eyes, darker circles under the eyes, paler skin, more wrinkles/fine lines, and more droopy corners of the mouth (effects ranging from b = +3 ± 1 to b = +15 ± 1 mm on 100-mm visual analog scales, P < 0.01). The ratings of fatigue were related to glazed eyes and to all the cues affected by sleep deprivation (P < 0.01). Ratings of rash/eczema or tense lips were not significantly affected by sleep deprivation, nor associated with judgements of fatigue. In addition, sleep-deprived individuals looked sadder than after normal sleep, and sadness was related to looking fatigued (P < 0.01).

CONCLUSIONS: The results show that sleep deprivation affects features relating to the eyes, mouth, and skin, and that these features function as cues of sleep loss to other people. Because these facial regions are important in the communication between humans, facial cues of sleep deprivation and fatigue may carry social consequences for the sleep deprived individual in everyday life.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. Vol. 36, no 9, 1355-1360 p.
Keyword [en]
Photo ratings, sleep deprivation, cues of fatigue, facial cues
National Category
Neurosciences Psychology
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-93228DOI: 10.5665/sleep.2964ISI: 000323886100014PubMedID: 23997369Local ID: P3018OAI: diva2:645620


Available from: 2013-09-05 Created: 2013-09-05 Last updated: 2015-04-08Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. The Face of Sleep Loss
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Face of Sleep Loss
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Sleep deprivation has been studied for over a century, providing knowledge about the benefits of sleep for many physiological, cognitive, and behavioural functions. However, there have only been anecdotal indications about what a tired or sleep-deprived person looks like, despite the fact that appearance influences not only how other people perceive a person but also how they evaluate them and behave towards them. How someone with sleep loss is perceived and evaluated by others is the focus of this thesis. Facial photographs of 48 participants were taken after normal sleep and after either one night of total sleep deprivation or two nights of partial sleep deprivation. The photographs were then evaluated in four different studies by a total of 288 raters recruited from universities and the general public in Stockholm, Sweden. The faces were rated on attractiveness, health, tiredness, sleepiness, sociability, trustworthiness, employability, and leadership ability. These factors were all adversely affected by sleep loss. Furthermore, looking tired was strongly related to being less attractive, looking less healthy and less trustworthy, and being perceived as a poorer employee and leader. One of the studies assessed facial features commonly associated with looking tired, showing that sleep deprivation results in eyes which appear more swollen and red, with dark circles and hanging eyelids, as well as paler skin with more fine lines and wrinkles. When sleep deprived, people were also perceived as more sad. In conclusion, the four studies show that sleep loss and a tired appearance affect how one is perceived by other people. These perceptions may lead to negative evaluations in interpersonal situations, both personal and professional. This thesis thus demonstrates social benefits of prioritizing sleep, adding to the physiological, cognitive, and behavioural research on sleep loss.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, 2015. 69 p.
sleep loss, sleep deprivation, face perception, interpersonal perception, attractiveness, tiredness
National Category
Research subject
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-115876 (URN)978-91-7649-133-1 (ISBN)
Public defence
2015-06-12, David Magnussonsalen (U31), Frescati Hagväg 8, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 3: Manuscript. Paper 4: Manuscript.

Available from: 2015-05-21 Created: 2015-04-07 Last updated: 2015-05-27Bibliographically approved

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