DEC 25, 2023 6:00 AM PST

Sleep Deprivation Linked to Less Positive Emotion and More Anxiety

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Sleep deprivation is linked to an increased risk of anxiety symptoms and a decrease in positive emotions. The corresponding study was published in Psychological Bulletin

For the study, researchers analyzed data from 154 studies spanning five decades including 5, 717 participants aged between 7 and 79 years old. In each study, participants underwent sleep disruption on one or more nights. Sleep disruption ranged from having a shorter-than-typical sleep duration to being kept awake for an extended period, and being woken up periodically through the night. 

Each study also assessed at least one emotion-related variable after each sleep situation, such as self-reported mood, response to emotional stimuli, and symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

Ultimately, the researchers found a link between all three types of sleep loss and fewer positive emotions, including joy, happiness, and contentment. All varieties of sleep loss were also linked to blunted arousal in response to emotional stimuli, and increased anxiety symptoms including rapid heart rate and worrying. They noted, however, that findings for symptoms of depression and negative emotions such as sadness, worry, and stress were smaller and less consistent. 

“Research has found that more than 30 percent of adults and up to 90 percent of teens don’t get enough sleep,” said study lead author Cara Palmer, PhD, of Montana State University, in a press release.

“The implications of this research for individual and public health are considerable in a largely sleep-deprived society. Industries and sectors prone to sleep loss, such as first responders, pilots and truck drivers, should develop and adopt policies that prioritize sleep to mitigate against the risks to daytime function and well-being.”

The study, however, is not without limitations. The participants were an average of 23 years old, and most of the studies analyzed were conducted in the US and Europe. This means that further research from a more diverse age and geographical sample is needed to see whether the findings also occur in other demographics. Further research may also examine why some people are more vulnerable to the effects of sleep loss than others, as well as the effect of multiple nights of sleep loss. 

Sources: Neuroscience News, Psychological Bulletin


About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets.
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