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When lack of Zzzs leads to !@!&%

The day after a late night is always tough. You may have trouble concentrating at work. You may feel sluggish and find yourself searching for words when you normally wouldn’t. One night of bad sleep can put a serious damper on your next day. 

Everyone knows that sleep is important, yet many people still don’t get enough of it. 

Research shows that lack of sleep can affect your body physically by increasing your risk of heart disease and decreasing your energy levels. But more and more studies show how important sleep is for your mental health, too. In fact, lack of sleep may be to blame for persistent negative thinking and even mental illnesses.  

“Negative thinking from time to time is normal, especially depending on what’s happening in your life,” said Michael C. Marino, D.O., medical director of Geisinger Sleep Labs. “But if you have constant negative or anxious thoughts, your sleep may be to blame.”

The sleep and mood connection
Americans could use more sleep. The CDC reports that one in three Americans doesn’t get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep. 

Chronic sleep deprivation can raise your levels of anxiety, depression and negative thinking.

“Repetitive negative thinking occurs when someone lingers on thoughts that are unhelpful,” said Dr. Marino. “An example is thinking, ‘I’m not working hard enough’ or ‘I’m not contributing enough to my family.’ These thoughts don’t serve a purpose other than self-sabotage, and they can lay the groundwork for anxiety and depression.”

Researchers found that people who reported frequent sleep disturbances tended to fixate on negative emotions more. The less sleep the people had, the longer it took them to get over a negative emotion. While some people naturally tend to fixate on things more than others, poor sleep made fixation worse.

Repetitive negative thoughts caused by sleep deprivation may lead to depression and anxiety disorders.

Get the right amount of sleep for you
Preventing negative thoughts may be as easy as getting to bed at the same time every night.

“Our sleep is based on our circadian rhythm,” said Dr. Marino. “As with any rhythm, it works best when we keep it steady. Going to bed and waking up at different times every day can set off your rhythm and make it hard to go to sleep soundly.”

Good sleep habits can help you keep your circadian rhythm in time. Put your phone down at least an hour before bed. Take time to read or meditate before bed to relax your mind from the day. Keep your room cool, dark and quiet to avoid disturbances.

Generally, experts recommend seven to eight hours of sleep for adults, but some people need as many as 10. To find how much sleep your body needs, set your alarm for eight hours after you go to bed. If you wake up more than 10 minutes before your alarm, push your bedtime 15 minutes later. If you wake up tired, move your bedtime 15 minutes earlier. 

Finding a bedtime that leaves you feeling refreshed when you wake up may help stop negative thoughts.

If you notice that you still don’t wake up refreshed after a full night’s sleep, talk to your doctor. You could be suffering from sleep apnea or high levels of stress.

Dr. Michael Marino, DO, is a sleep medicine specialist in Bloomsburg. To schedule an appointment, call 800-275-6401.