Nigel Farage recently made some very controversial comments about Romanians in a heated interview which has since gone somewhat viral. Many commenters felt his comments were quite clearly racist. Farage has since claimed he didn't word his comments as he'd like, because he was "completely tired out". This led to much mockery of the notion that being tired makes you racist.

While it's normal for people to openly mock the claims of Ukip politicians, instantly dismissing something as ludicrous isn't how science is meant to work. Even the most far-fetched hypothesis should get at least a chance to prove itself. And, as we saw previously with the claim that same-sex marriage causes floods, a deeper scientific assessment can show that maybe the controversial claim was right all along.

Racism is a well-known and persistent problem the world over. Many factors have been linked to causing it; issues of self-esteem, group identity and distinctiveness, resistance to and rejection of change, misplaced survival instincts, group dominance and many more besides. It's a complex, controversial, emotional subject, study of which has many far-reaching implications, many of which people don't like hearing and actively resist.

But what if the whole thing could be explained by one single factor: tiredness, resulting from exhaustion and/or lack of sleep? As surprising as it may seem, there may be evidence to support this notion.

Many have commented on the fact that increasing austerity leads to an increased incidence of racism and prejudice. Traditional theories would argue that such conditions lead to people finding a scapegoat, blaming ethnic minorities (who are traditionally more vulnerable and cannot retaliate) for circumstances that have causes that are more complex, abstract and impersonal.

However, austerity leads to fewer jobs, meaning those with jobs have to work harder to keep them. Those without jobs also have to work ever harder to actually find one. And even if you have a job, you're by no means financially secure, so experience more stress and anxiety in any case, which usually leads to sleep disruption. So overall, austerity leads to many people working harder and sleeping less, and what does this result in? Tiredness! And tiredness leads to racism.

It's not just the big picture that backs up the association between tiredness and racism. There are many small-scale instances. It's common to see motorway signs informing us that "Tiredness can kill", implying that tiredness kills because a tired person may lose control of their vehicle at high speed and cause fatal crashes. But what if it's actually saying that tiredness causes an increase in aggression towards members of other races, which could lead to violent and potentially fatal conflict? I'm not the first person to point this out, so it must be true.

It's sadly common to witness racist sentiments expressed at immigrants working as taxi drivers, take-away vendors, club toilet attendants, and things like that. One common element is that these people often work late at night. So maybe those attacking them aren't incredibly drunken idiots lashing out at innocent people in a futile attempt to deflect from their own massive inadequacies and the gaping, terrifying emptiness that festers in their souls; maybe they're just very tired? It's invariably late after all, and beer can make you sleepy.

Famously racist groups and individuals, in hindsight, seem to engage in behaviour indicative of tiredness. Goose-stepping must be exhausting. Constructing a river of blood would be a mammoth physical undertaking (not heard that speech myself but I can't imagine why such a thing would be wanted, let alone feasible). Members of the KKK dress in bed linen, so is this a subconscious hint that they're all totally shattered? And how often have you heard someone saying they're "tired of all these immigrants coming over here…"? They're admitting it each time! The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis suggests that the language we use reflects how the speaker thinks of the world, and this could be a prime example of that.

Prejudices like racism are often hallmarks of an authoritarian personality. People with authoritarian personalities tend to be right-wing and conformist. Such people tend to admire and aspire to be like Margaret Thatcher, who reputedly got by on very little sleep. So if people are emulating the Iron lady, they may be sleeping less, which means…

Contrast this with the most tolerant and accepting people: Buddhists. And what do Buddhists do a lot of? Meditation and yoga, two activities known to be very relaxing, thus alleviating tiredness. Also, it's widely known that people who consume a lot of caffeine (via coffee, Red Bull etc.) are almost always calm, relaxed and understanding towards the behaviour of others. Granted, there may be a few examples that contradict this, but these shouldn't be the basis of sweeping judgements, just like those Ukip members who keep saying offensive things.

What's the possible mechanism for this? Sadly, there is little research into the phenomenon. However, one possible source is the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin has many roles in the brain, one of which is regulation of sleep. Perhaps lack of sleep leads to disruption of the brain's serotonin systems. Serotonin has been implicated in other areas, like mood, and people in a negative mood may be more likely to lash out at other ethnicities.

Serotonin neurones tend to degrade as we age, meaning older people have less serotonin and sleep less. And older people are more often associated with having prejudicial views. Never mind the whole "raised in a different time when such views were acceptable" argument, it's all to do with lack of sleep. And thus, Nigel Farage was right.

Or, possibly, this whole piece is just cherry picking the most tenuous of links and presenting them as actual facts purely to support some wild claims. But who would do such a thing?

I don't know, I'm very tired.

Dean Burnett doesn't mean to scientifically dissect things UKIP members say so often, but they make it so easy. He is on Twitter, @garwboy