A new study shows that a lack of sleep can affect how we see other people.

The study shows that when we go without sleep, we spend less time looking at faces. Our relationships could suffer if we read social cues from those around us.

After sleep loss, angry faces seem to be less trustworthy and less healthy, while neutral faces seem to be less attractive, compared to when we have a full night's sleep.

Since facial expressions are crucial to understanding the emotional state of others, spending less time fixating on faces after sleep loss may increase the risk that you interpret the emotional state of others inaccurately or too late.

45 people were recruited to go through a night without sleep, and another group of people who went for 8 hours of sleep, separated by at least a week. In each case, eye-tracking sensors were used the morning after to monitor the gaze of the subjects as they looked at images of faces.

There were different expressions on the faces. The participants were asked to rate the attractiveness, trustworthiness and healthiness of the faces they saw.

When it came to face fixation, there was a drop in duration after sleep loss regardless of the emotion being shown. After a night without sleep, faces were rated as less attractive and less trustworthy.

Christian Benedict, a neuroscientist, says that sleep loss is associated with more negative social impressions of others.

This could result in less motivation to interact.

The study shows that a lack of sleep makes us less likely to engage with others. Negative social impressions of people with sleep issues may lead to social withdrawal.

The team behind the study theorizes that going without sleep and fixing less on faces could cause problems when it comes to judging other peoples emotional states, which is a key part of keeping social connections going.

We already know that poor sleep means we are less able to pay attention and interpret emotions. Larger sample sizes will be needed to dig into what is happening.

van Egmond does not know if the results are generalizable to other age groups. We don't know if people with chronic sleep loss would see the same results.

The research has been published.