While chances are you’ll be concerned about your sudden drop in your class of humor, realize it’s not only you. There’s even a term for sleep-deprivation-induced suits of giggles: muffin point, in accordance with the Urban Dictionary. It’s not necessarily the phrase a scientist would use to explain the phenomenon, per se, but psychologist Kyler Shumway, PsyD, says an absence of quality zzzs does make things feel funnier. (Research finds it also makes us feel like we’re drunk, FYI.)
“It starts with the brain, specifically the prefrontal cortex,” he explains, adding that certainly one of its primary functions is to control emotions and inhibitions—that is why babies and kids (whose prefrontal cortexes aren’t fully formed) are so easily amused. “In some ways, the prefrontal cortex works just like the brake pedal to your emotions,” Dr. Shumway says. “Your nervous system is continuously reacting to the environment, and your prefrontal cortex has to make your mind up whether to let the emotions out or not.”
But after we’re overtired, the brakes get faulty and our prefrontal cortexes don’t have as much control. “Eventually they offer up, and whatever emotion is present—laughter, rage, or sobbing, etc.—it comes out,” Dr. Shumway says. So in a way, having strong emotional reactions to small things, difficulty concentrating and specializing in tasks, anxiety, and depression, can all be indicators of sleep deprivation, he adds.
“Sleep deprivation is incredibly dangerous, each within the short and long run,” Dr. Shumway says. “People who find themselves sleep deprived are less rational, perform worse on motor tasks, and can’t record memories properly.” He adds that things are even worse for individuals who suffer from chronic sleep deprivation. “They will experience a reduced immune system response, increased blood pressure and heart problems, decreased working memory and response times,” he says.
Conversely, research finds that those that are well-rested perform higher in any respect these functions, are inclined to have a better time regulating their emotions and moods, and are more alert.
What to do in the event you reach the muffin point of no return
It’s common to undergo periods in your life once you feeling more run down and burnt out than usual. While the apparent answer is to get more rest, this isn’t all the time possible, and in accordance with Dr. Shumway, within the short term “our bodies are designed to handle occasional stress,” he says. “If it is advisable to occasionally push through periods of sleep deprivation in an effort to navigate life’s challenges like ending a project or taking good care of an emergency, that’s okay.”
But that isn’t the case if sleep deprivation is going on on the regular. If that’s the case, it’s time to begin taking a look at lifestyle causes that could possibly be contributing to your lack of quality zzzs. “Stimulants, similar to caffeine, can reduce the experience of tiredness; nevertheless, they have an inclination to mask the underlying symptoms of exhaustion fairly than act as a cure,” Dr. Shumway warns.
Moderately, he suggests chatting with an expert to get to the foundation cause. “In the event you struggle with chronic sleep deprivation or insomnia, consider working with a therapist that makes a speciality of CBT-I [cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia] a specialized type of talk therapy designed to treat difficulties with sleep,” Dr. Shumway suggests. It’s also value consulting along with your general practitioner or a sleep expert to find out if there are any underlying medical conditions that could possibly be keeping you up at night. Either way, you’ll sleep higher knowing you’re doing something about it.