Better Sleep Could Help Those Overwhelmed By Negative Thoughts

Chuck Bednar for – Your Universe Online

Those who go to bed extremely late at night and sleep for shorter periods of time are more likely to feel more consumed by worry, researchers from Binghamton University report in this month’s edition of the journal Cognitive Therapy and Research.

Binghamton Anxiety Clinic Director Meredith Coles, and her colleagues recruited 100 young adults to complete a battery of questionnaires and two computerized tasks designed to measure how much the students worry, contemplate or obsess about something, the three measures used to gauge repetitive negative thinking.

Those participants were also asked if they were more habitual morning or evening types, and if they preferred to maintain regular hours or to have a sleep-wake schedule that is more skewed towards later in the day. The study authors found that those who kept regular sleeping hours tended to be less overwhelmed with negative thoughts.

“Higher levels of repetitive negative thinking (RNT; a perseverative and abstract focus on negative aspects of one’s experience) are associated with reduced sleep duration,” Coles and graduate student Jacob Nota wrote in their study. “This information is already informing theory and clinical practice. However, we are not aware of any studies examining the relation between RNT and the timing of sleep.”

Their work revealed that “shorter sleep duration was cross-sectionally associated with more rumination and delayed sleep timing was associated with more obsessive-compulsive symptoms,” and that “individuals who endorsed a preference for later sleep and activity times also reported more RNT.” The findings, the study authors reported, “suggest that RNT may be uniquely related to both sleep duration and timing.”

According to the researchers, people are said to practice repetitive negative thinking when they have troublesome pessimistic thoughts which tend to repeat in their heads. These individuals feel as though they cannot control these thoughts, tend to be excessively concerned about the future and delve too much into the past.

These types of thoughts are said to be typical of patients suffering from generalized anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and social anxiety disorder, the researchers said. Previous research has linked sleep problems with such repetitive negative thoughts, especially in cases where someone does not get enough shut eye, and Nota and Coles set out to replicate these studies.

“Making sure that sleep is obtained during the right time of day may be an inexpensive and easily disseminable intervention for individuals who are bothered by intrusive thoughts,” Nota said in a statement. The research also suggests that sleep disruption may be linked to the development of repetitive negative thinking.

The study authors suggest that people who are at risk of developing a disorder characterized by these types of intrusive thoughts could benefit from making sure that they are getting enough slumber every night. The research is one part of a line research examining the link between mental health and sleep behavior.

“If further findings support the relation between sleep timing and repetitive negative thinking, this could one day lead to a new avenue for treatment of individuals with internalizing disorders,” Coles said. “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.”


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