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Sleep Deprivation & Sexual Judgment

Men who are sleep deprived can misjudge women’s sexual interest and intent, recent research suggests.

Researchers from Hendrix College in Arkansas recruited 60 college students to participate in the study.  The students completed assessments designed to evaluate their views on sexual interest, sexual intent, commitment interest, and commitment aversion.

The assessments were completed both before and after one night of sleep deprivation.

When sleep-deprived, the men rated women’s sexual interest and intent much higher than they did when they were well-rested.

Sleep deprivation may interfere with the frontal lobe of the brain.  This area is involved with risk-taking, moral reasoning, and inhibition.

Interestingly, the women’s perceptions of men’s sexual interest and intent were not significantly changed after a night of sleep deprivation.  The researchers weren’t sure why this was so, but suggested that women and men may have different goals when dating.

“Our findings here are similar to those from studies using alcohol, which similarly inhibits the frontal lobe,” researcher Jennifer Peszka, PhD said in a news release.  She added that poor sexual decision-making caused by sleep deprivation could lead to sexual harassment, unplanned pregnancies, transmission of sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs), and problems in relationships.

The study results were presented at the 27th Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies held in Baltimore in June. At this time, the results are considered preliminary because they have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.


American Academy of Sleep Medicine

“Sleep deprived men over perceive women’s sexual interest and intent”

(News release.  May 30, 2013)


“Abstract Supplement”

(For 27th Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies held in Baltimore, Maryland, 2013)

Relevant abstract:

Peszka, J.J. PhD, et al.

“The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Perceptual Processes Involved in Human Mating Decisions”

(Abstract #0272, Pages A98 – A99)

MedPage Today

Susman, Ed

“Sleepy Men May Be Sexually Aggressive”

(Updated: June 6, 2013)