Everyone feels powerful emotions like anger. Some deal with it better than others. But have you noticed that there are times when you feel angrier than usual and even small things tick you off? What’s the reason behind it? While it could be a lot of things like extra stress, there’s a growing body of research that shows sleeplessness is one of them. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, really, since lack of sleep is tied to negative emotions and impatience. However, we now have proof that sleep deprivation actually causes anger. In the past, studies suggested that was a connection between the two, but it wasn’t clear if anger caused sleep deprivation or sleep deprivation caused anger. All that has changed.
It’s no secret that lack of sleep can hamper emotional health. We feel irritable, cranky and just generally sensitive to things around us. Back in 2015, Tel Aviv University did a study that identified why this is. Researchers showed that sleep loss increased the activation of a set of neurons in the brain called the amygdala, which is responsible for helping us process emotions. This increased activity compromises our ability to handle emotions in a normal manner. When we don’t get enough sleep, we find it difficult to handle feelings. Unimportant things that normally wouldn’t annoy us become significant.
In the study conducted by Tel Aviv University, 18 adults had a good night’s sleep and took a test while their brains were being mapped. They took another test after staying awake for an entire night. The findings revealed that when sleep-deprived, the participants overreacted to both neutral and emotional images. By contrast, the same participants were distracted only by the emotional images after sleeping well.
While that particular study showed that the amygdala was responsible for messing up emotional balance when sleep-deprived, a newer study by Iowa State University is the first to reveal that sleep loss causes anger. Participants were divided into two groups with one maintaining a normal sleep routine and the other given restricted sleep (about 4.5 hours). They were made to rate products while listening to brown noise and white noise, which is more abrasive. Those who were sleep-restricted showed more anger when listening to both types of sounds. They were angriest when listening to the most unpleasant noise.
Going to bed angry can make it difficult to sleep because your thoughts are racing with whatever’s stressing you out. And, not being able to sleep makes you prone to anger. The cycle continues until you’re exhausted and suffer the other ill effects of sleep-deprivation like daytime sleepiness, poor concentration, poor, etc. Doing what you can to improve sleep and manage anger can go a long way in keeping you emotionally balanced and refreshed. The tips below can help.
Exercise is a known mood-booster as it releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins. You feel less stressed and more positive, and this may help you deal with anger-causing issues better. But that’s not all; it can also help you sleep by tiring you out. If you don’t normally exercise, start by trying to get in at least 75 minutes of cardio exercise a week. If possible, add a couple of strength training sessions each week.
After learning that sleep loss can cause anger, it should come as no surprise that confrontations should be avoided if you haven’t slept well. Try to stay away from tasks that require a lot of focus and those that are stressful. If you can’t, and you find yourself blowing a fuse, apologize and don’t let it escalate. Go for a walk, practice slow breathing, count to 10, etc. to calm down.
Power naps are a great way to energize yourself during the day. It also improves motor performance and boosts mood, so you’re less likely to lose your temper. Just make sure you keep them to 10-20 minutes. If you nap longer than that, you may be groggy, and it will take a while to feel awake.
Modern life can be stressful, and we don’t often take the time to relax and de-stress. Relaxation techniques are a wonderful way to center yourself, keep emotions in check and even improve your sleep. Try progressive muscle relaxation, use guided imagery, and practice focused breathing to temper negative emotions and fall asleep more easily.
A bedroom that’s inviting and comforting will send you to sleep faster than one that’s brightly-lit, noisy and messy. You can start by decluttering and creating an organized space. The action is said to reduce stress, and you’ll be left with a much more attractive environment. Turn the lights low as you prepare for bed to encourage your body to produce the sleep hormone melatonin, which is released in response to darkness. You should also use a good mattress so that you feel comfortable and your body is properly supported.
When you lay down on your mattress, make an effort to decompress, take a few deep breaths, feel the sleeping surface, stretch your spine, feel the comfort of the mattress. The conscious effort to enjoy the comfort feeling of a good mattress and a few deep breaths can go a long way to prepare you for a good night’s sleep. In addition, before you fall sleep, think positive thoughts, think about what you are grateful for. All of us can feel grateful for a lot of things, even when in the midst of a stressful period. Nuvanna can help by providing the comfortable sleeping surface and be an enabler of helping you feel comfortable, rested and grateful.
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It’s human nature to feel angry and to sometimes act on it, but it doesn’t have to get the better of you. It can be managed and even reversed by being aware of it and doing what you can to stay calm and in control. And, since quality sleep plays such a big role in managing emotions, you can take matters into your own hands and learn to follow healthy sleep habits. There’s so much to gain from enjoying great sleep and mastering anger!