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Sleeping Patterns and Mental Health

By: Tim De Pass

The emotions we experience daily play a constant role in our overall mental health. This is why it is imperative to understand how our most basic drives affect our daily emotions. One primary drive that plays a significant role in these emotions is sleep. The amount of sleep we get on a nightly basis can have a drastic impact on our mood the following day. This means maintaining a healthy sleeping schedule is such an essential characteristic of our emotional health.

When exploring the impact of sleep on emotion, it is not just the length of rest that is a factor. Sleep quality can also have an impact on our emotional responses to daily events. One study examined how chronic sleep difficulties influenced emotional reactivity in everyday life among individuals without mood disorders and individuals with mood disorders. The results found that within both groups of individuals, sleep difficulties were associated with enhanced negative affect towards daily unpleasant events and dulled responses to neutral events (O’Leary, Small, Panaite, Bylsma, Rottenberg, 2017). Negative affect involves negative emotions such as; poor self-concept, anger, and fear. This study demonstrates how consistent sleep difficulties can heighten our negative emotional reactions to everyday events. Disruptive sleeping patterns can lead to increased feelings of anger, fear, and nervousness all of which play a role in impacting our general mental health. For example, if an individual has frequent sleep disturbances it is likely they will have enhanced negative reactions to daily events which intensifies their emotions. This intensification of emotions can become overpowering and exhausting, thus putting the individual at greater risk for serious mental health concerns.

It is said that we spend one third of our lives sleeping. With sleep playing such an essential function in our lives, it is so important to make sure that those hours spent in bed are effective or it could truly harm psychological well-being. It can be easy to spot when you know you did not have a proper night of sleep. You will notice feelings of lethargy while being unmotivated and unfocused. You know the experience, where everything is just a little bit duller and a bit blearier. If disrupted sleep becomes commonplace, these feelings will only gain momentum and eventually override joyful emotions. Sleep can help us restore our functioning and our ability to cope, whereas deprivation of sleep makes us more emotionally aroused and sensitive to stressful stimuli and events (Vandekerckhove & Wang, 2017). It is crucial that sleep is regulated before it results in significant mental health concerns.

Oleary, K., Small, B. J., Panaite, V., Bylsma, L. M., & Rottenberg, J. (2016). Sleep quality in healthy and mood-disordered persons predicts daily life emotional reactivity. Cognition and Emotion, 31(3), 435-443.

Vandekerckhove, M., & Wang, Y. (2017). Emotion, emotion regulation and sleep: An intimate relationship. AIMS Neuroscience, 5(1), 1-17.

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