January 4, 2018
less than the recommended eight hours a night is associated with intrusive,
repetitive thoughts like those seen in anxiety or depression, according to new
Sleeping less than the
recommended eight hours a night is associated with intrusive, repetitive
thoughts like those seen in anxiety or depression, according to new research
from Binghamton University, State University of New York.
Professor of Psychology Meredith Coles and former graduate student Jacob Nota
assessed the timing and duration of sleep in individuals with moderate to high
levels of repetitive negative thoughts (e.g., worry and rumination). The research
participants were exposed to different pictures intended to trigger an
emotional response, and researchers tracked their attention through their eye
movements. The researchers discovered that regular sleep disruptions are
associated with difficulty in shifting one’s attention away from negative
information. This may mean that inadequate sleep is part of what makes negative
intrusive thoughts stick around and interfere with people’s lives .
“We found that
people in this study have some tendencies to have thoughts get stuck in their
heads, and their elevated negative thinking makes it difficult for them to
disengage with the negative stimuli that we exposed them to,” said Coles.
“While other people may be able to receive negative information and move
on, the participants had trouble ignoring it.”
These negative thoughts
are believed to leave people vulnerable to different types of psychological
disorders, such as anxiety or depression, said Coles.
“We realized over
time that this might be important — this repetitive negative thinking is
relevant to several different disorders like anxiety, depression and many other
things,” said Coles. “This is novel in that we’re exploring the
overlap between sleep disruptions and the way they affect these basic processes
that help in ignoring those obsessive negative thoughts.”
The researchers are
further exploring this discovery, evaluating how the timing and duration of
sleep may also contribute to the development or maintenance of psychological
disorders. If their theories are correct, their research could potentially
allow psychologists to treat anxiety and depression by shifting patients’ sleep
cycles to a healthier time or making it more likely a patient will sleep when
they get in bed.
The paper, “Shorter
sleep duration and longer sleep onset latency are related to difficulty
disengaging attention from negative emotional images in individuals with
elevated transdiagnostic repetitive negative thinking” was published in ScienceDirect.
Materials provided by Binghamton University.
Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
1. Jacob A. Nota, Meredith
E. Coles. Shorter sleep duration and longer sleep onset latency are related
to difficulty disengaging attention from negative emotional images in
individuals with elevated transdiagnostic repetitive negative thinking. Journal
of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 2018; 58: 114 DOI: 10.1016/j.jbtep.2017.10.003