Impaired sleep was found to contribute to more emotional reactions by participants to stressful events the next day, with a comparative indifference to positive events also reported, according to study findings published this week in Health Psychology.
As researchers highlight, experimental evidence has suggested that inadequate sleep disrupts next-day processing and causes greater stress reactivity. “The recommended guideline for a good night’s sleep is at least 7 hours, yet 1 in 3 adults don’t meet this standard,” said lead study author Nancy Sin, PhD, assistant professor in the department of psychology at the University of British Columbia, in the accompanying press release.
While prior evidence has exhibited this potential link, study authors note that there is a lack of research focused on whether sleep predicts next-day affective reactivity to everyday stressors and positive events, which can have a significant impact on an individual’s health. “A large body of research has shown that inadequate sleep increases the risk for mental disorders, chronic health conditions, and premature death,” said Sin.
Sin and colleagues sought to better understand the “within-person, bidirectional associations between nightly sleep duration and day-to-day fluctuations in affect related to stressors and positive events.” Utilizing daily diary data derived from the US National Study of Daily Experiences II (N = 1982; 57% female) on those aged 33 to 84 years, researchers analyzed sleep duration and how people responded to negative and positive situations the next day.
Participant information included sociodemographics and chronic conditions at baseline, and those recruited also completed telephone interviews for 8 consecutive days about their sleep duration, daily stressors, positive events, and affect.
In their findings, prior-night sleep duration was shown to moderate the link between current-day events and positive affect, but not negative affect. In other words, reporting impaired sleep the night before was associated with more pronounced decreases in positive emotion to daily stressors and smaller increases in positive emotion to daily positive events.
There was no significant evidence found on the reversed association of affective reactivity to daily events as predictors of subsequent sleep duration.
“When people experience something positive, such as getting a hug or spending time in nature, they typically feel happier that day,” said Sin. “But we found that when a person sleeps less than their usual amount, they don’t have as much of a boost in positive emotions from their positive events.”
Additionally, researchers found that people with chronic conditions were more reactive to positive events, particularly after long nights of sleep.
In concluding, Sin hopes that by making sleep a priority, people can have a better quality of life and protect their long-term health.
Sin NL, Wen JH, Klaiber P, et al. Sleep duration and affective reactivity to stressors and positive events in daily life. Health Psychol. Published online September 15, 2020. doi:10.1037/hea0001033