• Robb G. Best

Reactions to Positive and Negative Events Better With Sleep

You might have noticed how, after a night of poor sleep, any sort of stress you experience feels magnified. Now a new study from the University of British Columbia suggests that how much you sleep has a direct impact on how you feel about both positive and negative events the next day.

The study, led by health psychologist Nancy Sin, examined daily diary data from nearly 2000 people in the US, comparing sleep duration with how people responded to both good and bad happenings in their day. Participants reported how much they slept and how they reacted to events the following day via daily telephone interviews spanning eight days.

When people slept less than usual, they reported responding to stressful events with a greater mood decrease. However, they also reported less of a positive reaction to favorable events. “When people experience something positive, such as getting a hug or spending time in nature, they typically feel happier that day,” Sin explains. “But we found that when a person sleeps less than their usual amount, they don’t have as much of a boost in positive emotions from their positive events.”

In these turbulent times, it is more important than ever to make sure you have some degree of a buffer against stressful events, and the ability to really savor the positive ones. However, Nancy Sin points out that most US adults aren't getting enough sleep.

“The recommended guideline for a good night’s sleep is at least seven hours, yet one in three adults don’t meet this standard,” Sin says. “A large body of research has shown that inadequate sleep increases the risk for mental disorders, chronic health conditions, and premature death. My study adds to this evidence by showing that even minor night-to-night fluctuations in sleep duration can have consequences in how people respond to events in their daily lives.”

Interestingly, Sin's study found that for people with chronic health problems, longer sleep than usual led to more favorable responses to positive experiences the following day.

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