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Sleep loss alters emotional perception

News Desk

Sleep loss, insomnia… Do you feel grumpy after a sleepless night? Not only grumpy but negative, aggressive and emotionally drained?

What does sleep deprivation do to the way in which we perceive various emotional stimuli? In her doctoral thesis, Sandra Tamm, based at the Department of Clinical Neuroscience of the Karolinska Institutet, in Stockholm, Sweden, set out to explore precisely the ways in which sleep loss can alter our emotional perceptions and engagements.

Sleep deprivation makes us more likely to have negative emotional perceptions. When we do not rest enough, our brains rebel in various ways. Sleep deprivation can be just as bad as being drunk, this study found. It alters your perception of space and your reaction time.

People who sleep poorly are more likely to shun social contact and be intuitively avoided by others. Since lack of sleep affects the way we see things and interact with others, it comes as no surprise that it can also impact our emotional perceptions, making them likely to be more negative than usual.

The study investigated the impact of poor sleep on emotional contagion (a person’s ability to mimic and respond to someone else’s emotions), the ability to empathize with someone else’s pain and the relationship between sleep restriction and emotional regulation (a person’s ability to control their own emotional reactions). It also looked at sleep restriction and brain network connectivity.

The study found that people who experienced sleep loss were more likely to negatively interpret emotional stimuli, a situation called “negativity bias.” They were also more likely to have bad moods and find it more difficult to regulate their own emotional responses.

“Ultimately, the results [of this research] can help us understand how chronic sleep problems, sleepiness, and tiredness contribute to psychiatric conditions, such as by increasing the risk of depression,” says Tamm.

Tips for better sleep:

  • Set a schedule and keep a regular sleep schedule.
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.
  • Have a relaxing bedtime ritual.
  • Sleep until sunlight. Sunlight helps the body’s internal biological clock reset itself each day. Sleep experts recommend exposure to an hour of morning sunlight for people having problems falling asleep.
  • Don’t lie in bed awake. Do something else, like reading, watching television, or listening to music, until you feel tired.
  • Control your room environment and temperature.
  • Darken your bedroom — completely.
  • See a doctor if you’re sleeping problem continues.

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