Can Sleep Increase Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional Intelligence has been a corporate buzzword for some time. Fortune 500 companies rave about it, and businesses are built around it. It’s usually accompanied by words like leadership, management, and success.
Navigating the social landscape takes some skill. Whether in the workplace or your community, being able to read others can help bolster your career and be more productive when dealing with others.
There’s nothing that can neutralize that valuable skill more than lack of sleep. Research tell us that being aware of your own emotions and that of other people requires that you get a good nights rest.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional Intelligence – or EQ – came on the scene around 1995. Experts, in a typical fashion, still have a bit of a debate on the exact definition of EQ. Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, says that EQ consists of two main skills. Personal competence and social competence.
Personal competence is being aware and managing your own emotions. Someone who stomps around the office yelling at people or crying uncontrollably after receiving bad feedback would be an example of someone lacking personal competence. It’s keeping it together and not letting your emotions get the better of you.
Social competence, on the other hand, is your ability to read other people. What type of mood they might be in, what motivates them to act, and their general behavior. It’s understanding what makes them tick.
It’s these two skills that allow you to manage interpersonal skill in your professional and personal life.
How Sleep Affects EQ
So what’s the best way to study how sleep affects your EQ? Well….have people stay up for ridiculously extended periods of time, of course.
And that’s exactly what researchers did. In a small study, they took 26 people had them remain awake for over 55 hours (you read that right). They also recorded their Emotional Intelligence and constructive thinking abilities through a couple of tests. Once after a full nights rest, and a second after the sleep deprivation.
When the participants were tested the second time, the scientists saw that total EQ ability declined. But they also saw a number of other mental functions that were compromised. Reductions in empathy, behavioral coping, and impulse control – all needed in social adaption – had all been limited.
A more recent study that was published in 2015 found that our social awareness can also be another factor that is affected by lack of sleep.
For this experiment, participants had to rate the faces of 70 pictures as either friendly or threatening. Thankfully, this group wasn’t subjected to such extreme sleep deprivation. Only a mere 24 hours. Researchers also scanned their brains, took their heart rate, and had them judge another set of facial expressions after remaining awake..
What they found was that people were unable to distinguish between friendly or threatening faces. More surprising was that neutral or friendly faces were seen as more threatening by the participants.
Mathew Walker, an author of the study, stated:
“Insufficient sleep removes the rose tint to our emotional world, causing an overestimation of threat. This may explain why people who report getting too little sleep are less social and more lonely.”
There was a further interesting tidbit of information from the study. The scientists also recorded brainwave activity during the full night’s rest before rating the expressions on the first test. The people who got the best quality sleep, also judged the facial expressions with the most accuracy.
This means that quality sleep matters. The deeper the sleep, particularly REM sleep, the better you’ll be able to assess the emotions of those around you.
Why is EQ Important?
Emotional Intelligence can impact your life in a number of ways. Not only has it been shown to increase both your physical and mental health, but it helps strengthen your relationships. While this can be a boon to your personal life, it can also spell success in your professional life.
Knowing how others are managing their own emotions is just as powerful as knowing your own. When you’re sleep deprived this becomes harder to do. The study above illustrates that when we cut our sleep short, we can perceive our environment as more threatening than it actually is. Not only will you react more strongly to your own emotions, but it can cause problems when interacting with others. Possibly causing problems when there was none to begin with.
In short, you will be more effective at persuading others, resolving conflicts, finding middle ground in negotiations, communicating, and solving problems in the real world. There will always be times when you have to interact with people to produce results.
It can help you achieve that promotion you’ve had your eye on, and maybe even help you promote a cause you believe in. Understanding others will help give you an edge. And who doesn’t want that?
The Power of Basics
Sleep can be a basic habit, but don’t take a good nights rest for granted. Deep, quality sleep will help you face the social jungle and keep you aware of what is going on around you. And more importantly, what is happening to others.
Image: Amanda Tipton