Summary: Binghampton University researchers report sleeping less than 8 hours a night can result in negative, repetitive thoughts associated with anxiety and depression.
Source: Binghampton University.
Sleeping less than the recommended eight hours a night is associated with intrusive, repetitive thoughts like those seen in anxiety or depression, according to new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.
Binghamton University Professor of Psychology Meredith Coles and former graduate student Jacob Nota assessed the timing and duration of sleep in individuals with moderate to high levels of repetitive negative thoughts (e.g., worry and rumination). The research participants were exposed to different pictures intended to trigger an emotional response, and researchers tracked their attention through their eye movements. The researchers discovered that regular sleep disruptions are associated with difficulty in shifting one’s attention away from negative information. This may mean that inadequate sleep is part of what makes negative intrusive thoughts stick around and interfere with people’s lives .
“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,” said Coles. “While other people may be able to receive negative information and move on, the participants had trouble ignoring it.”
These negative thoughts are believed to leave people vulnerable to different types of psychological disorders, such as anxiety or depression, said Coles.
“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,” said Coles. “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 further exploring this discovery, evaluating how the timing and duration of sleep may also contribute to the development or maintenance of psychological disorders. If their theories are correct, their research could potentially allow psychologists to treat anxiety and depression by shifting patients’ sleep cycles to a healthier time or making it more likely a patient will sleep when they get in bed.
Source: Meredith Coles – Binghampton University
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Original Research: Full open access research for “Shorter sleep duration and longer sleep onset latency are related to difficulty disengaging attention from negative emotional images in individuals with elevated transdiagnostic repetitive negative thinking” by Jacob A. Nota and Meredith E. Coles in Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. Published online October 16 2017 doi:10.1016/j.jbtep.2017.10.003
Shorter sleep duration and longer sleep onset latency are related to difficulty disengaging attention from negative emotional images in individuals with elevated transdiagnostic repetitive negative thinking
Background and objectives
Repetitive negative thinking (RNT) is often associated with disruptions in sleep and circadian rhythms. Disruptions in sleep and circadian rhythms may deal a “second hit” to attentional control deficits. This study evaluated whether sleep and circadian rhythm disruptions are related to the top-down control of attention to negative stimuli in individuals with heightened repetitive negative thinking.
Fifty-two community adults with high levels of transdiagnostic RNT and varying habitual sleep durations and bedtimes participated in a hybrid free-viewing and directed attention task using pairs of emotionally-evocative and neutral images while eye-tracking data were collected. Self-report and clinician-administered interviews regarding sleep were also collected.
Shorter habitual sleep duration was associated with more time looking at emotionally negative compared to neutral images during a free-viewing attention task and more difficulty disengaging attention from negative compared to neutral images during a directed attention task. In addition, longer sleep onset latencies were also associated with difficulty disengaging attention from negative stimuli. The relations between sleep and attention for positive images were not statistically significant.
A causal link between sleep and attentional control cannot be inferred from these cross-sectional data. The lack of a healthy control sample means that the relations between sleep disruption, attention, and emotional reactivity may not be unique to individuals with RNT.
These findings suggest that sleep disruption may be associated with a specific impact on cognitive resources that are necessary for the top-down inhibitory control of attention to emotionally negative information.
“Shorter sleep duration and longer sleep onset latency are related to difficulty disengaging attention from negative emotional images in individuals with elevated transdiagnostic repetitive negative thinking” by Jacob A. Nota and Meredith E. Coles in Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. Published online October 16 2017 doi:10.1016/j.jbtep.2017.10.003