Lack of Sleep Sucks the Joy Out of Life, Study Confirms

Most of us know from experience that lack of sleep has a major impact on how we function on a daily basis. From irritability and increased clumsiness to being more prone to colds and chronic diseases, there’s a plethora of research to support this.

Now, a large study also confirms that depriving yourself of sleep can literally suck the joy out of life.

“Even minor night-to-night fluctuations in sleep duration can have consequences in how people respond to events in their daily lives,” said psychologist Nancy Sin from The University of British Columbia.

Enough Sleep Linked to Positivity

Sin and her colleagues analyzed survey data from around 2,000 adults between the ages of 33 to 84. After examining their baseline conditions, participants were surveyed for eight consecutive days in regards to their sleep duration, daily stresses, and experiences of either positive or negative events.

“When people experience something positive, such as getting a hug or spending time in nature, they typically feel happier that day,” explained Sin. “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.”

Fortunately, this effect also goes the other way. Longer sleep makes positive events look even better and protects against the impacts of daily stress. The team of scientists discovered that these effects are even greater on those suffering from chronic health issues, such as chronic pain.

“For those with chronic health conditions, we found that longer sleep – compared to one’s usual sleep duration – led to better responses to positive experiences on the following day,” said Sin.

Sleep Needs to be a Priority

Surprisingly, the team found no correlation between sleep duration and negative reactions. This implies sleep in especially important for positivity, the researchers note in their paper, and that it is important to consider both positive and negative effects when assaying sleep. They also did not find that responses to the day’s events predicted future sleep quality, which has previously been demonstrated in some studies, but not others.

Sin and the team of scientists caution their research has a few limitations as their data was based on patients’ recall, which is not always precise. However, this is the first research to examine these impacts of sleep in a natural setting, in comparison to laboratory conditions, and their findings could be used for future studies looking into long-term outcomes of sleep deprivation.

Sleep definitely needs to be a priority in our lives, but this can sometimes be more difficult to do. A recent assay showed how interlinked stress is with our ability to sleep, as both psychological processes have the same neural network. So it is no surprise that the collective stress people are experiencing because of recent events is affecting their sleep and even their dreams.

Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Even before these world-altering events, studies constantly showed many people in western countries are sleep deprived. Up to a third of U.S. adults report sleeping less than the advised seven to nine hours, and 12 percent of Australians sleep less than 5.5 hours. 

However, if prioritizing sleep were easy, many people wouldn’t be having such a hard time doing it. Besides stress and chronic health conditions, other factors such as disconnection from our natural sleep cycles, having to do shift work or multiple jobs, as well as loneliness can make getting the required amount of sleep time rather hard.

If we could shift some of these problems that impact sleep, it looks like more of us would have a chance at enjoying better health outcomes, as well as greater joys in life.

This research was published in Health Psychology.

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