Chronic sleep restriction is a common experience; and while it has negative physiological effects, little is known about how it affects human behavior. To date, no study has investigated whether chronic sleep restriction can influence implicit attitudes (e.g., towards a race). Here, in a randomized, counterbalanced crossover design, we subjected participants to 3 weeks of chronic sleep restriction in the lab (i.e., 3 weekly cycles of 5 nights of 4 hours of sleep per night followed by 2 nights of 8 hours of sleep) and found evidence for an increased negative implicit bias towards Arab Muslims. No indicators of an implicit bias were found in these same individuals when they were rested (during a counterbalanced 3-week period of 8 hours time in bed per night). These findings suggest that chronic sleep restriction may "unmask" implicit racial or ethnic biases that are otherwise inhibited when in a rested state. Because chronic sleep restriction is prevalent among many occupations that routinely interact with ethnic minorities in potentially high-conflict situations (e.g., police officers), it is critical to consider the role that restricted sleep may play in exacerbating negative implicit attitudes and their potential for provoking unintentional and potentially harmful behavioral consequences.
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