Why Do You Laugh When Tired?
Questions And Answers

Why Are Things Funnier When You’re Tired?

Last Updated on September 21, 2023 by Louise Carter

The most common reaction to tiredness and sleep deprivation is grumpiness and irritability. However, it’s common to feel exhilarated and laugh heartily at things you wouldn’t usually find funny.

The more tired we are, the more tired the prefrontal cortex becomes. If you’re excessively tired, the prefrontal cortex struggles to control responses to perceived humor, leading to overreaction.

Chronic tiredness can lead to euphoria, similar to hysteria. This leads to a lack of self-regulation and poor decision-making. A side effect is an attack of giggles when considering something broadly funny.

Part of the impact on your choices is a change in how you perceive the world around you.

When tired, we’re likelier to respond positively to anything considered appealing. Something that raises a wry smile when you’re well-rested may seem hilarious when tired.

The brain also floods the body with cortisol, the “stress hormone,” when we’re exhausted.

To combat this, the brain also releases dopamine. When dopamine overpowers cortisol, relief will flood the mind and body, frequently leading to raucous laughter.

Why Do You Laugh When Tired?

Many of us find it easier to laugh and relax in the evening than during a busy day.

This is reflected in most facets of our lives. TV sitcoms are often scheduled to air later in the day, and live comedy shows invariably occur at night.

Part of this can be attributed to the fact that we’re likely more relaxed at night. During a working day, your mind will be focused on activities that must be completed.

You may enjoy the company of co-workers and laugh together, but evenings are usually spent with friends and family. Consequently, you’re likelier to let your guard down and laugh together.

Many people may also drink alcohol, which affects their state of mind in the evening. These substances can reduce inhibitions and relax the mind, which often answers the question, “Why am I giggly at night?”

Even a sober person can laugh in the evening, especially if sleep was hard to come by the previous evening. Sleep deprivation has various effects on the human brain, including a giddy sense of humor.

A study in the journal Sleep explains how the brain processes humorous images on film differently after insomnia. Why do you laugh when you’re sleep-deprived? Here’s why it happens:

why am I giggly at night?

Fatigued Prefrontal Cortex

While awake and alert, our prefrontal cortex (PFC) is hard at work.

This part of the brain is located just above the eyebrows and is responsible for everything that makes us human. The PFC manages our memory, personality, and social behavior.

One of the roles of the PFC is judging sensory input and how we react. The PFC reminds us to respond appropriately in particular situations so we do not laugh at a funeral or yell in a library.

According to Scientific Reports, the less sleep we gain, the more tired the PFC becomes. Perhaps the best way to describe an exhausted PFC is a temporary reversion to childhood.

Young children don’t have a fully developed PFC, so they have a less ‘developed’ sense of humor. A toddler may laugh uproariously at a knock-knock joke or other more basic forms of comedy.

Sleep deprivation can leave the PFC like a child, so you’ll be less discerning about what makes you laugh. The impact will be temporary, and your sense of humor will revert to normal after sleep.

Changes To Perception

It’s common to feel overly emotional when you’ve not slept well.

You may find yourself weeping at a seemingly innocuous comment or TV show, but the opposite is true. An exhausted brain can find unparalleled glee in humorous or enjoyable situations.

This is due to a change in perception in the brain when deprived of sleep.

If you’re shown a pleasant image after a good night of sleep, you may think it’s inoffensive but ultimately neutral. When tired, the brain is likelier to react with more enthusiasm.

Next time you walk in the countryside, take a photo of a landscape that you find pleasant but not overwhelming. Look again later that night when you’re tired. You may now consider it the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen.

The same can apply to humor. If somebody makes a pun in your presence, you may let out a short laugh despite an urge to groan at the corniness of the joke. If you’re overtired, you may find the same pun makes you laugh out loud.

Your brain is overcompensating for your tiredness and is determined to find pleasure in everything it encounters to combat the stress associated with exhaustion.

State of Euphoria

Mental and physical exhaustion can lead to a brief state of euphoria.

This, in turn, may cause an uncontrollable fit of giggles that feels excessive when the source of the humor is considered. You’ll essentially enter a short period of hysteria.

This is again linked to the underperformance of the PFC. Where your brain would ordinarily regulate your reaction and encourage you to calm down, this euphoria will make you feel on top of the world.

You might have found the reason for your laughter genuinely funny and would have laughed anyway.

Your state of joy will magnify your response, and you won’t be capable of regulating your hilarity. This may mean you’re considered to be over-reacting.

The brain won’t remain in this place for long. It may only be 1-2 minutes before you regain control over your responses and feel self-conscious at how loudly and heartily you laughed.

You can recover from little social embarrassment, but don’t make any significant choices while experiencing this euphoria. You won’t be thinking clearly and may make mistakes.

Why do you laugh when you're sleep deprived?

Hormones

When overtired, the brain enters a fight-or-flight state. This is called an amygdala hijack when the brain perceives itself as in immediate danger and warns the body to steel itself and react accordingly.

During an amygdala hijack, the brain will be flooded with cortisol, associated with stress and adrenaline. However, lack of sleep also increases activity in the mesolimbic pathway.

This is called the “reward pathway,” as it controls dopamine release. A confused brain may flood the body with dopamine, the chemical we associate with motivation and pleasure, with cortisol.

Consequently, if your body is preparing for an emergency where it must flee or fight for its life, anything slightly funny will feel like a respite. Dopamine will take over and overpower cortisol.

Imagine a balloon fully inflated by stress and a simple joke as a pin that bursts this balloon, releasing all tension in a second. The palpable relief your body and brain feel when they realize there is nothing to fear will lead to a robust emotional response.

How To Manage Laughter When Tired

In some cases, finding everything funnier when you’re exhausted could have advantages.

The company of acquaintances that you ordinarily consider dull can be more entertaining, and you may enjoy the euphoria associated with sleep deprivation.

Be warned that the laughs you enjoy while tired are frequently short-lived.

Being overtired often leads to mood swings, which means you may giggle at a bad joke one moment and take grave offense to an innocuous comment the next.

Being tired also impacts your ability to make good choices.

A state of exhaustion can feel similar to intoxication, leading to comparable decision-making. If you’re tired, what seems like a funny idea or statement may be unfunny after sleep.

If you’re too tired to trust your judgment and going to bed is not an option, increase illumination.

Turning the lights up will reset your circadian rhythms and convince your brain to wake up a little. If possible, get outside and take a walk.

Drink water (avoid caffeine) and have a small, light snack. Don’t eat anything heavy that will take a long time to digest when you try to lie down and avoid foods that cause nightmares.

These steps may mean it takes you longer to fall asleep, as you must recommence your sleep hygiene routine and convince your body it is ready for bed. However, waking yourself up is a safer solution than allowing the consequences of sleep deprivation to unfold freely.

It’s natural to become more giggly at night, finding hilarity in the smallest things and laughing far harder at gentle jokes than you ordinarily would.

Ensure you don’t allow this lack of barriers surrounding humor to get you into trouble.