Just about everyone has -- ahem -- heard about "beer goggles," and a 2008 study suggests people really do look more attractive to us after a few drinks.
But new research, presented in poster form at SLEEP 2014, the 28th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, suggests that getting too little sleep may have a similar effect.
Maybe we should call the phenomenon "sleep goggles," lead investigator Jennifer Peszka, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Hendrix College in Arkansas, told The Huffington Post, as her students are apt to do. In her study, 60 heterosexual college students were shown photos of individuals of the opposite sex in random order. The individuals were made "more attractive" by morphing photos of multiple people together, as research shows the more average a face is, the more attractive people generally find it. Then, the students rated how attractive they found each photo and how much they wanted to engage in casual sex with the person in the photo.
After remaining awake for the next 24 hours, the students rated the photos again. Men increased their ratings of the least attractive women and decreased their ratings of moderately attractive women. Women, on the other hand, didn't change their ratings of any of the men. Men also expressed more interest in having casual sex with the least attractive women and less interest in having casual sex with the moderately attractive women after being sleep-deprived.
Peszka and her co-investigators believe this is due to sleep deprivation's disinhibiting powers -- similar, indeed, to those of alcohol -- because both sleep deprivation and booze operate on the frontal lobe of the brain, she told The Huffington Post.
"[B]ecause mating mistakes are more costly for women, they have greater motivation to be deliberative in their evaluations of potential mates, leading to greater recruitment of available cognitive resources even when these resources are low," the investigators wrote. Men, on the other hand "fail to allocate these resources to the discerning and deliberative evaluation of potential partners", which may account for their decreased ratings of moderately or ambiguously attractive women.
Peszka also conducted a 2013 study that found that sleep-deprived men are also more likely to misinterpret how interested women are in them.