There has been a lot of research in the past linking sleep disorders to anxiety. Previous studies have shown that chronic insomnia can increase your risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Arecent study took this a step further and found that what time you go to sleep might also affect anxiety and negative and intrusive thoughts.
According to the study, which was completed at Binghamton University and published in Springer’s journal Cognitive Therapy and Research, individuals who go to bed very late and sleep short periods of time have more negative thoughts than those who sleep on a regular schedule.
Ruminating, or repetitive negative thoughts, are one of the hallmark symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety disorder and depression. The thoughts usually center around worrying about the future or replaying a past experience. When you have these intrusive thoughts, you often feel helpless to stop them. These types of thoughts have previously been linked to lack of sleep.
Researchers Jacob Nota and Meredith Coles, wanted to see if the time you go to sleep had any influence on the negative thoughts. They worked with 100 young adults attending Binghamton University. The participants completed questionnaires and computerized tasks which measured how much they worried, ruminated or obsessed about things. They were also about sleep patterns, such as what time they normally went to sleep and woke and whether they considered themselves a morning or night person.
After analyzing the data, the researchers found that those people who identified with being “evening” people and who went to sleep later reported more negative thinking, ruminations and intrusive thoughts than those who slept at traditional times and kept a regular schedule. A regular schedule consisted of having a “traditional” bedtime, sleeping through the night and waking up in the morning.
The good news is that you can reduce your symptoms by changing your sleeping patterns. The researchers noted that when the participants focused on sleep during the study, they experienced a reduction of symptoms of anxiety and depression. The researchers want to continue their studies, looking at how the results can be used to help improve treatment and how this information can be help to reduce symptoms for people with anxiety disorders.
In the meantime, if you have an anxiety disorder or depression, take some time to track your sleep patterns. If you usually go to bed late, sleep into the afternoon or get only a few hours sleep each night, talk with your doctor about the steps you can take to improve your sleep time and quality. You might also want to check out the information in the following articles:
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.