Going to bed too late and sleeping too little is associated with experiencing persistent negative thoughts, according to new research.
Even amongst ‘evening types’ who prefer to sleep later anyway, the study found they had had more repetitive anxious thoughts than those who kept regular hours.
The research, published in the journal Cognitive Therapy and Research, asked 100 adults about their sleeping patterns and gave them tests of persistent negative thoughts (Nota & Coles, 2014).
The tests assessed how much people:
- and ruminated.
The results found a link between persistent negative thoughts and going to bed late.
Persistent negative thoughts are often associated with mental health problems.
People experiencing anxiety, depression, stress, OCD and social anxiety can find they have little control over negative thoughts continually popping into their minds.
While this study cannot tell us that better sleep causes improvements in persistent negative thoughts, clinicians frequently find that sleep helps.
Dr Meredith Coles, who co-authored the study, said:
“If further findings support the relation between sleep timing and repetitive negative thinking, this could one day lead to a new avenue for treatment of individuals with internalizing disorders.
Studying the relation between reductions in sleep duration and psychopathology has already demonstrated that focusing on sleep in the clinic also leads to reductions in symptoms of psychopathology.”
Jacob A. Nota, the study’s lead author, said:
“Making sure that sleep is obtained during the right time of day may be an inexpensive and easily disseminable intervention for individuals who are bothered by intrusive thoughts.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Image credit: Shifteye