Lack of sleep is linked to anxiety and depression

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Less than eight hours sleep is linked to anxiety and depression, new research suggests.

Insomniacs are less able to overcome negative thoughts than those who get sufficient shut eye, a study found.

Being unable to nod off also reduces people’s ability to disengage from negative emotions, the research adds.

Study author Professor Meredith Coles from Binghamton University, said: ‘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. 

‘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.’

Up to 50 percent of people in the US have difficulty falling or staying asleep. Anxiety and depression affect around 40 and 16 million adults, respectively, every year in the US.

The researchers analyzed 52 adults with ‘repeated negative thinking’ (RNT).

RNT is the compulsive focus of attention on thoughts that cause sadness, anxiety and distress. 

The study’s participants had varying sleep durations and bedtimes. Interviews were carried out to determine their sleep patterns.

They also viewed images intended to trigger an emotional response, as well as neutral pictures, while the researchers monitored their eye movements.

Results reveal getting insufficient sleep causes people to spend more time looking at emotionally-negative images.

Insomnia also results in sufferers being unable to disengage from the negative pictures they view.

Professor Coles said: ‘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.

‘While other people may be able to receive negative information and move on, the participants had trouble ignoring it.

‘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. 

‘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 carrying out further studies to determine how the timing and duration of sleep contributes to psychological disorders. 

This may allow psychologists to one day treat anxiety and depression by aiding sufferers’ shut eye.

The findings were published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. 

 

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