Sleep deprivation adversely affects interpersonal responses to frustration

Ellen T. Kahn-Greene, Erica L. Lipizzi, Amy K. Conrad, Gary H. Kamimori, William D.S. Killgore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

155 Scopus citations


Sleep deprivation produces negative effects on mood and cognitive function, but existing data have almost exclusively utilized objective rating scales, which do not permit evaluation of idiosyncratic and unstructured responses. In this study, we used a semi-projective measure, the Rosenzweig Picture-Frustration (P-F) Study, to assess subjective responses to frustration following two nights without sleep. Twenty-six healthy volunteers completed the P-F at rested baseline and again following 55 h of continuous wakefulness. Participants provided written responses for an ambiguous cartoon character confronted with various frustrating situations. Relative to rested baseline, sleep deprivation was associated with altered responses on several indices, indicating a great number of uncommon types of responses, increased tendency to blame others for problems, and a reduced willingness to alleviate a conflict situation by accepting blame. Individual differences in several aspects of emotional intelligence were predictive of the extent to which responses to frustration changed with sleep loss. These findings suggest that sleep deprivation significantly weakens the inhibition of aggression and willingness to behave in ways that facilitate effective social interaction, possibly through reduced metabolic activity in prefrontal regions of the brain important for personality, affect, and inhibitory behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1433-1443
Number of pages11
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2006


  • Aggression
  • Assertiveness
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Frustration
  • Rosenzweig Picture-Frustration Study
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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