According to a new study, you may have to face a difficult decision: stay up late, or be happier?
Research from Binghamton University suggests that people who sleep for shorter periods of time and who go to bed late are more often overwhelmed with negative thoughts than others who have better sleep hygiene.
According to “Duration and Timing of Sleep are Associated with Repetitive Negative Thinking,” night owls are plagued with pessimistic thoughts that lap a circular track — the more negative thoughts they think, the more negative thoughts they get. Such thoughts are similar to the ones of people suffering such conditions as generalized anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and even social anxiety disorder.
Jacob Nota and Meredith Coles, the psychologists behind the study, sought to replicate the results of similar studies, which have linked poor mental hygiene with poor sleep hygiene before. They asked 100 young adults at Binghamton University to complete a slew of questionnaires and to do two computerized tasks. The researchers then gauged the students’ negative thinking by measuring how much they worried, ruminated on, or obsessed about things. They also asked the students whether they had a regular sleep schedule, or one that was more skewed towards later in the day. The researchers also asked the students whether they were more habitual morning or evening types.
Nota and Coles found that the students who slept less and also those who went to bed later had more repetitive negative thoughts than those who chose otherwise.
“Making sure that sleep is obtained during the right time of day may be an inexpensive and easily disseminable intervention for individuals who are bothered by intrusive thoughts,” said Nota.
Of course, mental blocks aren’t the only things that can hamper a person’s sleep. Physical challenges can hurt people’s sleep hygiene, too.
What’s most interesting about this particular study, though, is what it suggests. Nota and Coles found that sleep disruptions could be linked to the development of repetitive negative thinking. Therefore, getting to bed sooner and getting more sleep could help people at risk of developing disorders characterized by similar, intrusive, pessimistic thoughts.
“If further findings support the relation between sleep timing and repetitive negative thinking, this could one day lead to a new avenue for treatment of individuals with internalizing disorders,” Coles said. “Studying the relation between reductions in sleep duration and psychopathology has already demonstrated that focusing on sleep in the clinic also leads to reductions in symptoms of psychopathology.”