The Major Side Effect of Skimping on Sleep

We all know that not getting enough sleep makes you hella cranky. And now new research suggests it’s not just the amount of sleep, but when you go to bed that morphs you into a real life Eeyore. A study published in the journal Cognitive Therapy and Research found that people who hit the sack very late at night and snooze for shorter periods of time have more negative thoughts than those who get the recommended dose of Zs.

Study authors Jacob Nota and Meredith Coles of Binghamton University replicated past studies that linked sleep problems to negative thoughts, then set out to find a link between this pesky side effect and the actual time someone goes to bed.

For the study, they asked 100 young adults at Binghamton University to fill out questionnaires and participate in two computerized tasks. Researchers then measured how much the students worried, ruminated or obsessed about something, which are the three measures by which negative thinking is gauged. The students were also asked whether they considered themselves a morning or night person, preferred to keep regular sleep hours, or had a sleep-wake schedule that leans toward later in the day.

They learned that students who slept for shorter periods of time and went to bed later experienced more negative thoughts than those who kept regular sleep hours. This was especially the case for students who considered themselves night owls. 

So if your mind turns into a black cavernous hole of doom when you don’t catch enough Zs, a few simple tweaks to your sleep habits might do the trick. 

“Making sure that sleep is obtained during the right time of day may be an inexpensive and easy intervention for people who are bothered by intrusive thoughts,” Nota said in a statement.

He continued in an email to YouBeauty: “We found as hours of sleep increased from four to 10 hours, people had fewer repetitive negative thoughts.” They also found that as bedtimes got later — from 10p.m. to 5a.m. — people experienced more negative thoughts (which basically explains my entire personality). As a general rule of thumb, shoot for a minimum of 6.5 hours of sleep, and try to hit the sack before 1a.m. (earlier, if you can).

And it’s not just about sleep quantity, but quality. As Nota pointed out, “Getting eight hours of sleep may not be enough when someone isn’t going to sleep at an hour that’s relatively aligned with the light-dark and social clock.” This leads to endless sleep disruptions, which may trigger chronic worrying and impact how you process negative information – which could explain why something bad happening on no sleep turns many of us into season one Carrie Matheson.

Follow-up studies are currently underway to clarify how sleep loss turns us into serial pouters — which puts a big, ironic smile on my face. 

Related Articles: 

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Newly Single? Why You’re Better Off Sleeping Alone 

6 Ways Sleep Makes Your Life Better 

Is Sleeping in Separate Beds the Key to Happiness?