The role of sleep deprivation in aggressive behavior has not been systematically investigated, despite a great deal of evidence to suggest a relationship. We investigated the impact of 33 h of sleep loss on endocrine function and reactive aggression using the Point Subtraction Aggression Paradigm (PSAP) task. PSAP performance was assessed in 24 young men and 25 women who were randomly assigned to a sleep deprivation or control condition. Sleep deprivation lowered reactive aggression and testosterone (but not cortisol) in men, and disrupted the positive relationship between a pre-post PSAP increase in testosterone and aggression that was evident in rested control men. While women increased aggression following provocation as expected, no influence of sleep deprivation was found. This is the first experimental study to demonstrate that sleep deprivation lowers reactive aggression in men. Testosterone, but not cortisol, played a role in the relationship between sleep and reactive aggression in men.
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