Why You're So Emotional: You Didn't Get Any (Sleep) Last Night

When discussing a friend or coworker’s bad mood we commonly (and often jokingly) blame it on the fact that they ‘didn’t get any’ - however, a more likely reason is that they just didn't get enough sleep. Recent research suggests that restless nights can make us more emotional.

A study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology, consisting of 2,000 Swedish adults, examined the relationship between a person’s ability to regulate their emotions and the development of insomnia over time. At the onset of the study, participants’ ability to regulate their emotions seemed to have no effect on their sleeping patterns. Six and eighteen months later in the study, it was found that those who were less able to manage their emotions were also more likely to experience persistent insomnia. This was equally the case for those who began the study without sleeping problems.

The findings suggest “emotional turmoil may be at least partially responsibly for insomnia.” Lead author of the study, Markus Jansson Fröjmark says, “It’s way more complex than just a simple cause – it’s probably different for different people.” Fröjmark also noted that the study shows only a slight relationship between dysfunctional emotional regulation and insomnia, but it appears that ongoing sleep deprivation leads to increased experiences of negative emotions. On the other hand, some studies have suggested that sleep deprivation can make people feel happier, although this is likely a temporary effect.

Fröjmark hypothesizes that how you feel the morning after a sleepless night can be dependent on whether or not it was your decision to get less sleep. Many of us choose to stay up late catching up on Netflix episodes while sacrificing a couple hours of shut-eye. But, those who are insomniacs lack sleep not by choice but by condition. In the case of an insomniac, a bad mood is in part a result of this lack of sleep.

Another study run by researchers from Tel Aviv Medical Center in Israel found that sleep deprivation made people more emotionally reactive. Simon, the lead author of the study said, “I cannot stress enough how sleep is really important for emotional health. I think that we take it too lightly; it seems to kind of be the last priority. I think that we should give it higher priority if we want to live a healthy life, emotionally and psychologically in general.”

Both studies tell us that a lack of sleep and negative emotions are indeed connected. Let’s make sleep a greater priority each night because let’s be honest, no one likes bumping heads with moody people!