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Sleep-deprived Men More Likely to Perceive Women as More Eager to Have Sex

May 31, 2013 02:44 PM EDT

Sleep-deprived men are more likely to perceive women as interested and intending to have sex, according to a new study published in the journal SLEEP.

This was the case, according to the authors, after just one off night for the men involved in the study.

Moreover, the participants' views on women’s libido were altered so far they suddenly perceived their female counterparts to be as interested in sex as men – a 180 from their perceptions previous to sleep deprivation.

The authors came to this finding after studying a group of 60 college students who completed the Cross Sex Perception and Sex and Commitment Contrast instruments, developed by Marti Haselton and David Buss, before and after one night of sleep deprivation.

Participants rated level of agreement with a series of statements on seven-point Likert scales regarding sexual interest, sexual intent, commitment interest and commitment aversion for a variety of targets, including themselves as well as men and women in general. For example, one question asked, “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?”

According to the authors, the reason for the changes in perception likely resides in the ability of sleep deprivation to impair to the frontal lobe, which has a negative effect on decision-making variables, including risk-taking sensitivity, moral reasoning and inhibition.

“Our findings here are similar to those from studies using alcohol, which similarly inhibits the frontal lobe,” co-principal investigator Jennifer Peszka of Hendrix College said in a press release.

For this reason, she said, lack of sleep “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.”

Among the long term effects of such behavior, she warns, are sexual harassment, unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease and relationship conflicts – all of which “are ... factors that have serious medical, educational and economic implications for both the individual and for society.”

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