BINGHAMTON, New York — Not getting the recommended eight hours of sleep a night may do more than make someone groggy and unfocused. It may even lead to depression and anxiety, according to a new study.
Researchers at Binghamton University found that people who do not get enough sleep are more likely to struggle with negative thoughts that are hard to shake.
For the study, the authors monitored the timing and length of sleep in 52 participants who tended to have moderate to high levels of repetitive negative thinking. Researchers showed participants pictures designed to stimulate emotional responses and determined the participants’ attentiveness by tracking their eye movements. Individuals who continue to miss out on regular sleep also tend to find it difficult to shift attention away from negative information.
“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,” explains study co-author Meredith Coles, a psychology professor at the university, in a statement. “While other people may be able to receive negative information and move on, the participants had trouble ignoring it.”
Coles says such unrelenting negative thoughts are likely to make some people more vulnerable to such psychological disorders as anxiety or depression.
“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,” she adds. “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.”
Researchers say that if their theories are on track, this research could lead to new ways for psychologists to treat anxiety and depression. It might mean helping patients adjust sleep cycles to healthier times or making sure patients are able to get to sleep more easily when they hit the sack.
Improving mood and mental health might be as simple as getting more zzzs.
The research was published in the March 2018 edition of the journal ScienceDirect.