For the first time, researchers examined the effects of five consecutive nights of sleep deficiency on emotional processing.
The correlation between our mental health and the quantity and quality of sleep is a popular subject in research, as sleep is a fundamental element to a person’s well-being. Unlike total sleep deprivation, which has been extensively studied, the results of continued sleep deficiency have experienced less consideration.
In a recently published study, researchers tested 42 healthy individuals over two consecutive weeks. Over five days, they had an adequate amount of sleep. The following week for five days, the participants had only 5 hours of sleep per night.
Each morning their emotional responses to 90 pictures were observed by researchers. Participants responded to pleasant and neutral images negatively when their sleep was limited for several nights in a row. There was no major difference between conditions for ratings of unpleasant pictures.
These results deliver the first evidence that sleep restriction for five consecutive nights can negatively affect emotional reactivity, causing behavioral and neurofunctional changes.
Whereas chronic sleep restriction is a widespread and underemphasized problem among people all over the world, the findings are particularly relevant.
“Considering the pervasiveness of insufficient sleep in modern society, our results have potential implications for daily life, as well as in clinical settings, ” said lead author Daniela Tempesta, Ph.D., of the University of L’Aquila, in Italy.