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Keywords:

  • emotional intelligence;
  • excess sleep;
  • medial prefrontal cortex;
  • psychopathology;
  • voxel-based morphometry

Summary

In modern society, people often fail to obtain the amount of sleep that experts recommend for good health and performance. Insufficient sleep can lead to degraded cognitive performance and alterations in emotional functioning. However, most people also acknowledge that on a regular basis they obtain more sleep than they subjectively perceive they need at a minimum to stave off performance decrements, a construct we describe as subjective ‘sleep credit’. Few people would contest the notion that getting more sleep is better, but data on both behavioural and neuroanatomical correlates of ‘sleep credit’ are surprisingly limited. We conducted a voxel-based morphometric study to assess cerebral grey matter correlates of habitually sleeping more than one's subjective requirements. We further tested whether these structural correlates are associated with perceived emotional intelligence and indices of psychopathology while controlling for age, gender, and total intracranial volume. In a sample of 55 healthy adults aged 18–45 years (28 males, 27 females), whole-brain multiple regression showed that habitual subjective ‘sleep credit’ was correlated positively with grey matter volume within regions of the left medial prefrontal cortex and right orbitofrontal gyrus. Volumes were extracted and regressed against self-report emotion and psychopathology indices. Only grey matter volume of the medial prefrontal cortex cluster correlated with greater emotional intelligence and lower scores on several indices of psychopathology. Findings converge with previous evidence of the role of the medial prefrontal cortex in the relationship between sleep and emotional functioning, and suggest that behaviour and brain structure vary with habitual ‘sleep credit’.