Last updated on Jul 7th, 2020 at 02:41 pm

If you’re a night owl, getting fewer than eight hours of sleep a night increases your risk of suffering from anxiety and depression…

A new study from Binghamton University in New York, has found that sleeping for fewer than eight hours a night is associated with intrusive, repetitive thoughts like those seen in anxiety or depression.

Negative focus and intrusive thoughts

In the study, participants were shown different pictures intended to trigger an emotional response.

Researchers tracked their attention through their eye movements and discovered that regular sleep disruptions are associated with difficulty in shifting one’s attention away from negative information.

What does this mean?

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It may mean that inadequate sleep is part of what makes negative intrusive thoughts stick around and interfere with people’s lives.

Getting stuck

“We found that people in this study have some tendencies to have thoughts that get stuck in their heads, and their elevated negative thinking makes it difficult for them to disengage with the negative stimuli that we exposed them to,” says Meredith Coles Cole, Binghamton University Professor of Psychology. “While other people may be able to receive negative information and move on, the participants had trouble ignoring it.”

These negative thoughts are believed to leave people vulnerable to different types of psychological disorders, such as anxiety or depression, explains Coles.

“We realised over time that this might be important – this repetitive negative thinking is relevant to several different disorders like anxiety, depression and many other things.”

Sleep therapy

Coles says that what is novel is that they are exploring the overlap between sleep disruptions and the way they affect these basic processes that help in ignoring those obsessive negative thoughts.

The researchers are further exploring this discovery and, if their theories are correct, their research could potentially allow psychologists to treat anxiety and depression by shifting patients’ sleep cycles to a healthier time.

Source: Binghamton University via

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