Psychologist Nancy Sinn of the University of British Columbia said, “Even slight fluctuations in the nighttime period of sleep can result in how people react to events occurring in their daily lives.”
Paap and colleagues used survey data from approximately 2,000 adults between the ages of 33–84. After assessing their baseline conditions, participants were asked about their sleep duration, daily stress, and experiences of positive and negative events for eight consecutive days.
“When people experience something positive, such as a hug or spending time in nature, they usually feel happier that day,” Sin explained.
“But we found that when a person sleeps less than their normal amount, they do not get positive feelings fueled by their life events.”
Fortunately, this effect goes the other way as well. Long sleep makes positive events even better, and avoids the effects of daily stress. The team found that these effects are also greater on those with chronic health problems such as chronic pain.
“For people with chronic health conditions, we found that longer sleep – compared to one’s normal sleep duration – responded better to positive experiences the next day”, said Sin.
Unexpectedly, the researchers found no association between sleep duration and negative reactions. This suggests that sleep is particularly important for positivity, the team notes in its paper, and that it is important to look for both positive and negative effects when examining sleep.
They also did not find that responses to daytime events predicted subsequent sleep quality, which has been shown in some studies previously, but not others.
Paap and the team are careful in their studies because their data are dependent on patients’ recall, which is not always accurate. But it is one of the first studies to examine these effects of sleep in a natural setting, as opposed to laboratory conditions, and their data may be useful for future investigations showing long-term consequences.
Obviously sleep should be a priority in our lives, but it can be much easier than work. A recent study showed how stress is interrelated with our ability to sleep, as both physiological processes share the same neural network.
So it is no surprise that the collective stress we are experiencing due to the epidemic is affecting our sleep and even our dreams.
But before these world-changing events, research has consistently shown that many of us in Western countries are not getting enough sleep. One-third of US adults report having less than seven to nine hours of sleep and 12 percent of Australians have less than 5.5 hours.
That said, if it was easy to prioritize sleep, many people probably wouldn’t have trouble doing so.
Along with stress and chronic health conditions, other factors such as disconnection from our natural sleep cycle, shift work or multiple chores, and loneliness can make the recommended amount of snooze time very difficult.
Some of the best tips on dealing with sleep problems are; But if we can move some of these big issues affecting sleep, then it seems that more of us will not only get the chance to experience better health outcomes, but also more happiness in life.
This research was published in Health psychology.