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Low on Sleep, High on Emotion

As an avid anti-sleeper, I can personally attest to the multiple negative effects lack of sleep has had on me as a graduate student. Besides needing several cups of coffee to make it through the day, I also feel hmm, slightly miserable? After several nights of poor sleep, I start to feel run down; I get frequent headaches, chills, symptoms of a cold, and I become moody. My emotions either fall flat or I am much more sensitive to stressful situations, more irritable, and my patience is decreased. I also feel as though my emotions are heightened; I don’t normally cry when I spot an adorable kitten but lack of sleep makes me bawl like a baby at any little fluffy cutie pie I see. So then this brings up the thought, “Is lack of sleep making me crazy or...?”


It turns out that sleep and emotions are tied together and actually greatly influence one another. For example, if you experience an emotional event during the day, such as a very difficult test, a car accident, or a break-up, chances are, you aren’t going to get a very restful night’s sleep. On the flip side, if you are excited about something, such as leaving for vacation or adopting a kitten from a local shelter (yes I did tear up writing that), we may also find it difficult to get a quality night’s sleep. This heightened emotional reactivity works across the spectrum of emotions, meaning that insufficient sleep causes us to be just as prone to snapping at our friends for asking us a question as it does wrapping that same friend up in a hug that lasts a little too long. And, if you experience several nights where you do not get enough sleep, you may experience intense emotions for a longer period of time and could overreact positively or negatively to all situations.


Let’s discuss the scientific aspect of this low-sleep high-emotional-reactivity phenomenon. Sleeping is very important for our brains. While our body rests, our brains are working hard to store the information we gathered during the day, remove built-up toxins, restore our energy, and regulate our emotions. Without a good night’s sleep, our emotional well-being is negatively impacted. We are more prone to mood swings, increased irritability, emotional reactivity, and feelings of anxiety, anger, and depression.


So what can you do to make sure you get enough sleep and prevent yourself from negative feelings and intense emotional reactions? Get plenty of sleep of course! But what can you do to ensure you can relax your body after an emotional event and get a good night’s sleep? One way is to optimize your bedroom environment, meaning make sure it is a relaxing space that is set to a comfortable temperature, has dim lighting, and is quiet. Additionally, there are several relaxation techniques that can be done before bed to lower your stress levels, such as listening to relaxing music, meditation, or deep breathing sessions, and taking a bath or shower. Most importantly, try to put your body on a strict schedule by waking and going to sleep at the same time every day. This consistency can help you feel more tired at your designated bedtime, even after an emotionally trying day. Buy some bath bombs, create a soothing playlist, and take some deep breaths and you will be on your way to a well-rested and emotionally balanced you in no time. For more helpful tips and tricks on getting a better night’s sleep, follow the link below!


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