Sleep loss can lead to anger in adults
Loss of sleep could amplify anger in adults, according to research presented at SLEEP 2020.
“The relationship between sleep and emotions is bi-directional,” Zlatan Križan, PhD, a professor of psychology at Iowa State University, told Healio Primary Care. “Losing sleep undermines emotion regulation, and negative emotions undermine sleep. These dynamics are essential to patients’ everyday lives and their ability to maintain physical and mental health.”
The findings were initially published in Sleep, the journal of the Sleep Research Society, in May.
Križan and colleagues conducted two studies. In one, 202 college students completed daily diaries for a month to report their sleep the previous night, the stressors they experienced during the day and their state of anger throughout the day.
Researchers found that participants in the daily-diary study experienced more anger on days after a night with less sleep. They noted that half of this effect stemmed from increased stressors experienced during that day and was somewhat independent from the effect of sleep duration on general negative affect.
In the second study, an experimental laboratory study, researchers enrolled 147 participants and randomly assigned them to restrict their sleep at home by about 5 hours over 2 nights or to maintain their regular sleep schedule. Then, they evaluated participants’ changes in anger while being exposed to an aversive noise.
Križan and colleagues found that after 2 days, well-slept participants adapted to the aversive noise and reported less anger. However, participants with restricted sleep had exhibited both higher levels of anger and more anger responses.
Križan and colleagues determined that subjective sleepiness was the primary driver behind the experimental effect that loss of sleep had on anger.
“Taken together, the studies provide convincing evidence that anger can cause more anger under frustrating and everyday circumstances,” Križan said. “This raises important questions about how people manage anger as well as has clinical implications for anger management.”
In addition to anger, sleep loss can lead to a wide range of health effects, according to Križan.
“There are immediate unpleasant effects of sleep loss, such as irritability, lack of focus and difficulty with everyday tasks,” he said. “But chronic sleep restriction is more insidious as it undermines metabolic, immune and cardiological functioning. A lot of evidence shows that sleep disruption contributes to many chronic illnesses and contributes to all-cause mortality.”