Sleep Deprivation Causes Misperceptions Among College-Age Men About Women’s Desire for Sex

Researchers at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, examined how sleep deprivation affects college students’ perceptions of whether or not others want to have sex. The study found that men generally expressed more interest in having sex than women and that both men and women perceived that women were less interested in having sex. But after the men and women spent a sleepless night, men’s judgment about whether a woman wanted to have sex was impaired. Under circumstances where they were sleep deprived, men perceived women’s interest in sex to be similar to their own, whereas as under normal sleep circumstances, men correctly perceived women as less interested in sex than themselves.

Peszka“Our findings here are similar to those from studies using alcohol, which similarly inhibits the frontal lobe,” said co-principal investigator Jennifer Peszka, an associate professor of psychology a Hendrix College. “Sleep deprivation could have unexpected effects on perceptual experiences related to mating and dating that could lead people to engage in sexual decisions that they might otherwise not when they are well-rested. Poor decision-making in these areas can lead to problems such as sexual harassment, unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and relationship conflicts which are all factors that have serious medical, educational and economic implications for both the individual and for society.”

Dr. Peszka is a graduate of Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. She earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from the University of Southern Mississippi. She has been on the Hendrix College faculty since 1999.

The study, “The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Perceptual Processes Involved in Human Mating Decisions,” was presented at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Baltimore earlier this month, and was published on the website of the journal Sleep.

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