Health

Good sleep can improve stress responses and increase positivity, studies show

Key Takeaways

  • A new study shows that getting more sleep than usual can help you appreciate positive events more.
  • This adds to previous research showing how sleep can affect our emotions, both the next day and in the long term.
  • Appreciating the positive more and having more positive experiences can help protect your health, researchers say.

Time to set that early bedtime you’ve been putting off: A new study found that when people sleep longer than usual, they enjoy more positive experiences.oror

The study was published in the American Psychological Association health psychology, It builds on previous research on how sleep affects both our physical health and our mental well-being. Much of the sleep research has focused on the negative effects of not getting enough sleep.orBut the new study adds to the growing body of research on the positive effects of more sleep.

“After a person sleeps more than usual, they’re probably more likely to create opportunities where they can experience something positive,” says Nancy Sinn, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia who led the study. Getting more sleep—and consequently having more positive experiences—may have health benefits.

How sleep affects our emotions

A good night’s sleep can do wonders for how we feel the next day. Likewise, a bad night’s sleep can negatively affect how our brains work and how we process emotions. Previous research has shown that sleep deprivation, or not getting enough sleep over multiple days, is linked to irritability and aggression.orSleep deprivation has also been linked to anxiety, depression and mood swings.oror

Nancy Sinn, Ph.D

We’ve found that when people sleep more than their usual amount, they tend to derive more pleasure from positive experiences the next day.

– Nancy Sinn, Ph.D

Much of the research on how sleep affects people’s emotions the next day has been conducted in the laboratory, Sin says. Instead, he and colleagues conducted phone interviews with nearly 2,000 people over eight consecutive days about how much they slept the night before and how they reacted to daily stressors and positive experiences the next day.oror

“Based on that data, we found that when people sleep more than their usual amount, they tend to derive more pleasure from positive experiences the next day,” Sin says. “And they were able to maintain their positive emotions, even when they faced some stress.” Participants were also more likely to interpret simple activities such as walking outside or hugging as very positive events.oror

The study builds on previous research on how sleep affects our daily functioning, said Jean Owen, study co-author and doctoral student in health psychology at the University of British Columbia. “Some experimental studies have shown that sleep deprivation affects your brain’s positive emotion system more than the negative emotion system,” he says. “Our research extends these findings to suggest that the effects of sleep on positive emotions can also be observed in everyday life.”

What it means for your health

These findings are important, Sinn said, noting her previous research on how daily positive events can promote well-being.or“Those who lose positive emotions under stress are at greater risk for health problems,” she says. Conversely, he also found that people who slept more than usual were more likely to create more positive opportunities for themselves.

It is well established that stress and negative emotions are bad for your health.orBut more research is now focusing on how positive events can help protect your health. “There’s also been a lot of work that I’ve done before that shows that people who have more positive events, have lower levels of inflammation.”orSim says. “They have this healthy pattern of daily cortisol, so their stress hormones show a healthy pattern.”oror

Gene Wen, doctoral student

Given that we currently live under greater stress and uncertainty, I believe it may be even more necessary for people to consistently get good sleep to prevent it from affecting their daily mental functioning.

— Gene Owen, doctoral student

Additionally, Owen says the most surprising finding from the study was that people living with chronic conditions seemed to benefit more from more sleep.or“Specifically, when they were well rested, they had a greater increase in positive emotions when they encountered positive events,” he says.

what can you do

More research has shown that sleep appears to be a “powerful driver” of how we’re going to behave and feel the next day, Sin says. “I think this really speaks to the importance of sleep in promoting well-being.”

As a result, one of the most important takeaways from the study is the importance of consistently getting enough sleep — whatever that means for you, Owen says. Experts at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommend that adults get an average of seven or more hours of sleep on a regular basis to avoid health problems.oror

Hours of sleep aren’t the only factor that affects sleep quality. Sleep researchers use an acronym, “SATED,” to identify the five aspects of good sleep.orWayne explains:

  • comeSatisfaction: How satisfied are you with your sleep?
  • AAlertness: How alert or alert do you feel during the day?
  • Timing: Do you have a regular bedtime and wake up time?
  • EEfficiency: How much time is spent sleeping in bed?
  • Duration: Did you get enough sleep?

“Given that we currently live under greater stress and uncertainty, I believe it may be even more important for people to get good sleep on a regular basis so that it does not affect their daily mental functioning.”orWayne said. “I think it’s important for people to not only recognize how sleep affects their day-to-day mental functioning, but also to prioritize getting good sleep — which could mean committing to a consistent bedtime and wake-up time, or setting a specific time before going to bed. can.'”

What does this mean for you?

Yes, setting a consistent bedtime can be difficult, especially if you work late, are a parent or guardian of children, or if you suffer from chronic insomnia or other conditions that affect sleep.

But doing your best to get as much sleep as possible has both mental and physical health benefits. This study shows that more sleep isn’t the only thing that helps you to feel Better yet, it also helps you appreciate the little things.oror

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