Why does everything seem funnier when you’re tired?



Why does everything seem funnier when you’re tired?

In: Biology

Because sleep is close to death?

Probably because you don’t have the energy to overthink or analyze stuff. Same when you’re drunk or high. You’re too busy trying to keep up with yourself to stop and think about why your dog farted onto your cat.

That’s a good question because in order to figure out why things seem funnier, you have to first figure out why things seem funny at all.

There’s a lot of theories of humor – this isn’t what we would call settled science. The one I find most convincing right now is benign violation theory. According to BVT, all humor requires two components: (1) you perceive that some expectation or social structure is violated; (2) you perceive that the violation is benign.

That’s the psychological component; it’s connected to a physical component, involving brain chemicals and connections. (I don’t have the expertise to explain that part in detail, certainly not at an eli5 level).

Psychologically, when you’re tired, you’re thinking more slowly and in a more limited context. So things that are not normally a big context switch become more noticeable – hence a bigger “violation” (the violation of context). It’s easier for something to be “unexpected” when you’re tired. And if they wouldn’t have been violations normally, then those things are very likely to be “benign”.

Physically, when you’re tired, there’s a bunch of chemical changes in your brain. Exact details vary highly from person to person and even day to day (and are also not fully “settled science”), but in general your mood-chemicals are different. This makes you more susceptible to view things in a different way than you “normally” would. The tiredness chemicals involve some of the same chemicals that make you happy, which you usually associate with things like humor.

From this perspective, you have psychological and physical elements combining to increase the chance that you find something “funny”.