Research Finds Link Between Lack of Sleep and Unwanted Thoughts

Not catching enough shuteye isn’t great for your body. It can impact your mood, lead to weakened immunity, increase your blood pressure and even affect your balance. It also plays havoc with your mind and can result in poor concentration and memory issues.

A joint study from the University of York and the University of Cambridge in England has discovered just how brutal the effects of lack of sleep are on your brain, with data showing a strong connection between poor sleep and unwanted thoughts.

Researchers looked at how 60 participants managed intrusive or negative thoughts after a night of poor sleep versus a night of good sleep. The participants were shown images of negative scenes, like a picture of a war zone as well as neutral scenes, like an image of a cityscape. According to mindbodygreen, the participants were asked to associate faces with these images.

Following this activity, half the participants slept normally while the other half were deprived of sleep and the next morning, they were shown the same images again and asked to suppress thoughts related to the scenes.

Those who were sleep-deprived found it difficult to keep unwanted thoughts of the negative and neutral scenes from their minds while those who were considered well-rested found the task much easier.

In fact, the sleep group actually viewed the negative scenes more positively after the suppression task and showed a reduced sweat response when the negative scenes were presented again.

“This study offers an important insight into the impact of sleep on mental health,” said senior author of the study, Dr Scott Cairney, from the Department of Psychology at the University of York. “Besides post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, our findings might have implications for our understanding of other disorders linked to sleep disturbances, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and schizophrenia”.

“The study also suggests that the onset of intrusive thoughts and emotional disturbances following bouts of poor sleep could create a vicious cycle, whereby upsetting intrusions and emotional distress exacerbate sleep problems, inhibiting the sleep needed to support recovery”.

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