How Sleep Affects Your Ability to Be a Positive Person

You've probably heard the old adage that attitude is everything. However, if you're sleep-deprived, it's difficult to feel positive about anything at all. Just one day of missing sleep is enough to make most people feel short-tempered, grouchy, easily frustrated, more stressed and less likely to make good decisions. When sleep deprivation becomes chronic, the effects can be severe. You may be unable to focus at work, and you could forget things at home. You may feel as if you're becoming cognitively impaired or going through a personality change. Anxiety, depression, compulsiveness and anger can all result from an ongoing lack of sleep. In a study by the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, researchers found that how much sleep you get plays a role in how positive you feel about yourself, your relationships and the world in general.

About This Sleep Study

Health psychologist Nancy Sin of the University of British Columbia was the lead author on this sleep study, which was published in the journal Health Psychology on September 23. The study looked at sleep diaries completed by 1,857 residents of the United States who were participating in a sleep study project. The participants kept sleep diaries for eight consecutive days. In their diaries, they wrote about the day's events, any problems they encountered, their emotions and the good things that happened. They recorded when they went to bed, when they woke up and how much sleep they got. The participants also commented on how well-rested they felt when they got up.

Results of the Sleep Study

When participants reported less sleep, they also reported greater stress in dealing with the problems they encountered. Even if those problems were minor or small, they reported more stressful outcomes when sleep-deprived. When a sleep-deprived individual had something good happen, they felt less excited or positive about it. Their emotions tended to be more negative overall, even for neutral or good situations. Feelings of joy and happiness were muted, and feelings of anger or sadness were enhanced. Overall, the participants had trouble maintaining an emotional equilibrium and recovering from stress.

What Sin's Past Research Shows

This study built off Sin's past research demonstrating that chronic sleep deprivation leads to more inflammation in the body. Higher rates of inflammation affect a person's physical health. Inflammation is associated with heart disease, autoimmune disease, diabetes, arthritis, pain and cancer. People with chronic inflammatory conditions die at a younger age than people without these types of conditions.

Psychological Implications of a Lack of Sleep

When a person in the study didn't get enough sleep, they started the next day with more negative emotions. This happened even if nothing bad occurred in their day. Without any added stress, people with insufficient sleep had a negative outlook.

How Sleep Affects Chronic Health Conditions

Sin also took a look at how a lack of sleep affects people with chronic health conditions. In general, people with chronic health problems have more negative emotions and report more stress. Sin found that when people with chronic health conditions got more sleep, they had a more positive outlook. The recommended amount of sleep for a person between the ages of 18 and 60 is seven to eight hours per night. For this study, Sin considered "more sleep" to be any amount of sleep more than that individual's usual duration of sleep. For example, a person whose usual duration of sleep is five hours would feel more positive if they got six or seven hours of sleep.

What You Can Do

Past studies about the physical impacts of sleep deprivation have resulted in a lot of awareness about the risks of driving while tired and of overeating or making unhealthy food choices when tired. This new research highlights what can happen to your personality, spirit and sense of self when you're facing chronic sleep deprivation. Sin suggests that people can take a variety of actions in order to prevent a lack of sleep from harming their emotional and mental as well as physical well-being. Those actions include prioritizing sleep and practicing good sleep hygiene. If your chronic condition interferes with sleep, ask for a referral to a psychologist or sleep medicine physician. You may benefit from a combination of pharmacological interventions and cognitive behavioral therapy to fix your sleep issues. If you're a shift worker, setting a routine and sticking to it may help.

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