Being a night-owl may not be good for your health. The time you go to bed, and the number of hours of sleep you end up getting, are thought to be directly associated with negative thinking and worrying, new research suggests.
The study, published in Springer’s journal Cognitive Therapy and Research, found people who go to bed late and sleep for shorter periods of time are more often overwhelmed with negative thoughts when compared to people who keep regular sleeping hours.
The findings, published by Jacob Nota and Meredith Coles from Binghamton University in the United States, are part of a line of research examining the relationship between sleep behaviour and mental health, specifically focusing on anxiety disorders. Nota and Coles aimed to replicate previous sleep pattern studies to find a link between having bothersome repetitive thoughts and the amount of shut eye someone gets.
One-hundred students from the university were asked to complete questionnaires and two computerized tasks. The research measured how much students worry, overthink or obsess about something — the three components negative thinking is generally based on.
Students were also asked if they were morning or evening types — preferring to keep regular hours, or sleeping in late and going to bed late during the night. The study found students who categorized themselves as evening types, and who slept for shorter periods of time, experienced more repetitive negative thoughts than others.
“Making sure that sleep is obtained during the right time of day may be an inexpensive and easily [adopted] intervention for individuals who are bothered by intrusive thoughts,” Nota said in a press release.
The findings suggest sleep disruption is also another factor linked to the development of repetitive negative thinking. Both Nota and Cole believe people at risk of developing a disorder caused by constant negative thoughts should focus on getting enough sleep.
“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,” Coles said.