We all know that sleep deprivation makes us irritable and short-tempered. But, are we really aware of how deeply sleep deprivation hurts our emotional well being and affects our mental health?
Sleep Deprivation Makes You More Emotionally Reactive
Not getting enough sleep increases the probability that your emotional responses will be more impulsive and intense. Research shows that even a single night of sleep deprivation sets us up to react more strongly and impulsively to negative situations. And when you are dealing with chronic sleep deprivation, you contend with this heightened emotional reactivity on a daily basis.
Research suggests that sleep deprivation increases activity in the emotional rapid response center of the brain, the amygdala. The amygdala controls many of your instant emotional reactions. And when the amygdala is short on sleep, it goes into overdrive. And this causes us to be more intensely reactive to situations. But it’s not only about negative reactions, we’re more reactive across the whole spectrum of our emotions, both positive and negative.
You Have a More Negative Outlook
Sleeping poorly makes us concentrate more on the negative. It also increases repetitive negative thinking. This happens when your mind is stuck in a negative place. And it’s going over the same frustrating thoughts again and again. These repetitive negative thoughts are linked to the development of mood disorders depression and anxiety.
Studies show that sleep-deprived people have more repetitive negative thoughts. They are less able to control their mind's fixation on the negative when compared with people that are well-rested. The greater the sleep deprivation, the more difficult it is for people to escape negative thoughts, feelings, and experiences. It’s definitely a difficult cycle to break.
You Worry More About the Future
Recent research suggests that sleep-deprived people tend to worry more about the future.
Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley carried out a fascinating study, in which they found that anticipatory anxiety is increased in sleep-deprived people. That’s worrying about the future. Sleep deprivation triggered more anticipatory anxiety in people who were already prone to worrying. So, if you are among the people that tend to worry, getting enough sleep is vital to maintaining a healthy emotional balance.
You Feel Less Connected to Your Partner
Sleep deprivation can undermine healthy and satisfying relationships. Sleep deprivation can sink a healthy sex life and it can mess with other forms of intimacy between partners.
Scientists at UC Berkeley found that lack of sleep reduces the gratitude we feel for our romantic partners.
Moreover, sleep deprivation diminishes our capacity for empathy. And empathy is an emotional skill that is essential to healthy relationships. When we are sleep deprived, we are less able to show empathy for others. We are less able to recognize and imagine other people’s feelings.
The skills of self-awareness, appreciation for others, and empathy are integral parts of our emotional intelligence. When sleep deprivation impairs these crucial skills, our bonds of trust and communication in the relationships weaken greatly.
Women and Men Experience Sleep-deprived Emotions Differently
One sleep study found that women experience more anger, more hostility, and more depression first thing in the morning than men do. We know that generally, women’s brains expend more energy than men’s do. And that additional energy expenditure means women need more sleep. When they don’t get the sleep they need, emotional difficulties may arise. Emotional difficulties arise for men too, but women’s may occur more quickly or more often due to women’s greater sleep needs.
All in all, studies show that your mental and emotional health depends on you getting plenty of high-quality rest.