The concept of being “hangry” — that is, feeling grumpy as an effect of not having eaten for a while — is pretty well-worn by this point. But hey, guess what? Being “slangry” is a thing, too — and what’s more, the weird things that happen to you when you’re slangry might make you put in a little more of an effort when it comes to cleaning up your sleep hygiene. Sleep deprivation is no joke, and there’s research to prove it.
By “slangry,” of course, I mean what happens when you’re grumpy as an effect of not having gotten enough sleep. It can be either a one-time thing after a single sleepless night, or it can be an ongoing issue if you have insomnia or other sleep problems; the thing that’s really freaky, though, is that it can kind of turn you into another person. If the Hulk’s issue was sleep hygiene as opposed to general anger management… well, that’s kind of me when I’ve had a couple of sleepless nights in a row.
The thing with both hanger and slanger is that, when you’re already grumpy due to being hungry or tired, and your body starts having trouble functioning on top of it all, it can all kind of compound itself: You’re sleepy, which makes you grumpy; but because you’re sleepy, you’re also having trouble performing an everyday task you might not otherwise have issues with; and because you’re having issues with that task, you get more grumpy, and so on and so forth. If that sounds familiar, do yourself a favor and take a nap.
Here just a couple of things that happen to you when you’re slangry, according to science:
1. You Become A Less Positive Person
In a study published recently in the journal Cognitive Therapy and Research, a group of 40 adults were divided into two smaller groups: One which spent 28 consecutive hours awake, and one that was allowed to get eight hours of sleep. In a computer test taken by all participants in which they identified happy, sad, and neutral facial expression, the folks who were sleep deprived were much less likely to focus on the happy expressions — which could have some pretty major implications for people dealing with depression or anxiety. Said lead author Ivan Vargas, PhD, according to Science Daily, “In general, we have a tendency to notice positive stimuli in our environment. We tend to focus on positive things more than anything else, but now we’re seeing that sleep deprivation may reverse that bias.”
2. You Tend To Overreact More To Emotional Situations
Even if you’re typically cool as a proverbial cucumber under pressure, odds are you’ll have a much harder time coping with difficult situations if you’re sleep deprived. In a 2015 study out of the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and Tel Aviv University, 18 participants completed a number memorization exercise under two different conditions: One in which they had gotten enough sleep, and one in which they had been awake for 24 hours. The numbers the participants had to memorize were superimposed on two types of images — one unpleasant, the other neutral — in an effort to distract the participants from the task at hand. The researchers found that the participants’ brains had more of an emotional response for both the unpleasant and neutral images when they were sleep deprived, but only for the unpleasant images when they were well-rested.
3. You Have A More Difficult Time Learning New Things
In 2005, a study testing motor-skill memory found that, when participants were able to learn a task, sleep, and then come back to the task later on, they were better able to execute the task again later than if they learned it, went away from it but didn’t sleep, and then came back to it later.
If you’ve ever, say, rage-quit a video game, only to come back to it the next day and find that you can complete whatever you were hung up on before without expending any effort whatsoever? Well, this study explains exactly why that was: It was because you slept on it. If you don’t sleep on it, though — and, in fact, regularly don’t sleep on it —you may have a hard time retaining new things when you learn them. And then you’ll probably get even more frustrated than your run-of-the-mill slanger made you feel in the first place. It’s a vicious cycle.
4. Your Heart Works A Lot Harder
There’s a cartoon-y kind of image that comes to mind for a lot of us when we think of what an angry person looks like: Someone bulging eyeballs, flames coming out of the top of their head, and really, really high blood pressure. And hey, guess what? It turns out that that’s… kind of what’s going on when we’re slangry. According to a study presented at the Radiology Society of North America’s annual meeting at the end of 2016, 20 healthy radiologists who underwent a 24 hour shift after only having gotten an average of three hours of sleep showed significant increases in mean peak systolic strain, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of various thyroid hormones and cortisol. The study was tiny and very focused, but it does show how sleep deprivation can negatively affect people in high pressure jobs in real-world circumstances.
5. Your Moral Judgment Gets… Questionable
Research from 2007 asked 26 healthy adults to judge the “appropriateness”of a few different responses to three types of moral dilemmas under two conditions: One in which they were well-rested, and one in which they’d been awake for 53 hours. Under the sleep deprived condition, people took a lot longer to make their decisions. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your morality goes out the window, but things might look a little different to you when you’re sleep deprived — that is, what well-rested you might look at and think, “THAT IS ABSOLUTELY NOT THE RIGHT THING TO DO HERE,” sleep-deprived you might not see quite as clearly right off the bat. Said lead researcher William D.S. Killgore, PhD, “Our results simply suggest that when sleep deprived, individuals appear to be selectively slower in their deliberations about moral personal dilemmas relative to other types of dilemmas.”
6. You Get Sick More Easily
We usually file this one under common knowledge — if you don’t get enough sleep, duh, of course you’re going to end up getting a cold you can’t shake. But the research backs up this particular piece of information, too: According to a study of twins published in early 2017, your immune system takes a hit when you don’t get enough shuteye. Blood samples taken from 11 pairs of identical twins found that, for the twins who got less sleep, their immune systems didn’t function as well as those who got more sleep. So, not only do you end up grumpy and sleepy when you’re slangry, there’s also a good chance you’ll end up sick, too. Fun.
7. Your Brain, Uh, Starts To Eat Itself
I wish I were kidding, but I’m not. Research published earlier this year divided a group of mice up into three conditions: Those which had been allowed to sleep as long as they wanted, those which were kept awake for eight hours, and those which were kept awake for five consecutive days. The researchers found that two types of brain cells that are responsible for “cleaning house,” so to speak — one that prunes synapses and one that seeks out damaged cells in your brain— were much more active in both groups of sleep-deprived mice. In the short term, this can actually be a good thing; in the long term, though, it might be putting people at risk of brain disorders and conditions like Alzheimer’s.
If your slanger is an ongoing issue, what’s to be done about it? I’m not an expert, of course, so my first suggestion would be to get thee to a sleep doctor or therapist and see if you can’t tackle the root problem from there; in the meantime, though, you might want to take a look at both some sleep hygiene solutions and some stress management strategies. Because who wants to be tired and pissed off all the time? Not me. And I’m assuming not anyone else, either.