Updated: Aug 10
Have you ever had to function through an entire day after getting little or no sleep? Everything you had to do probably felt significantly more difficult. Did you notice yourself getting easily irritated or grouchy?
When you think about it, it’s pretty obvious that not getting enough sleep makes you cranky. It’s harder, though, to set up your schedule to allow you to actually get the sleep that is so necessary. We have work, school, social obligations, kids, and other events and responsibilities that take up our time and can’t be cut out. It’s even more challenging when the time to go to bed comes and you’re watching TV and just can’t seem to find the self-discipline to decide against that one more episode. We tell ourselves that we’ll be fine the next day or that it’s worth it.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC, 2016) determined through a survey a few years ago that, on average, less than 72% of people are getting the recommended 7 hours of sleep per night. This average was lowest among certain groups, like those who are divorced, widowed, or separated (51%), African Americans and multiracial people (54%), and people who reported being unable to work (51%). This means that only about half of the people in these groups get adequate sleep.
The CDC further asserted that lack of sleep is associated with increased health and mental illness risks (CDC, 2016). Some of these conditions include obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease. It was also specifically noticed that sleep deprivation was linked to “frequent mental distress.” Again, it seems obvious that lacking sleep would make it hard for us to regulate our emotions, but it has become such a normalized part of our culture that it’s easy to dismiss. Some people even brag about how little they sleep or glorify it as a personal achievement.
Outside of length of sleep, factors like how long it takes you to fall asleep, how deeply you sleep, and interruptions to your sleep have been directly linked to the intensity of your emotions and whether they naturally tend to be more positive or negative (Fairholme & Manber, 2015). Therefore, it is important to your emotional regulation and, by consequence, your social relationships, to get at least 7 hours of deep, uninterrupted sleep per night as much as possible. It isn’t always doable, but it is helpful to at least make it a major priority.
To improve your sleep, focus on your sleep hygiene. This involves going to bed and waking up at the same time every night and morning, turning off your tv at night or removing it from your bedroom completely, and being careful about using mobile devices like your phone in your bed (CDC, 2016). The Sleep Foundation (2022) also suggests establishing a consistent nighttime routine including setting aside at least 30 minutes to wind down, dimming lights to increase natural melatonin production, and focusing on relaxing in bed rather than trying to fall asleep. They also promote healthy daytime activities such as exposure to daylight, physical activity, avoidance of nicotine and alcohol, reduction in caffeine in the afternoon and evening, and using your bed only for sleep and sex.
Prioritizing sleep and setting healthy habits and routines can greatly improve your sleep duration and quality. This in turn improves health, quality of life, and self-mastery. Best of all, it helps you regulate any overwhelming emotions which can improve overall functioning, productivity, and relationship satisfaction. Why not give it a try?
Centers for Disease Control. (2016). 1 in 3 Adults Don’t Get Enough Sleep. US Department of Health and Human Services. Roi: https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.html.
Fairholme, C.R.,Manber. R., (2015). Sleep, emotions, and emotion regulation: An overview. Sleep and affect: Assessment, theory, and clinical implications. Academic Press., pp. 45-61, 10.1016/B978-0-12-417188-6.00003-7
Suni, E., & Vyas, N. (2022, March 11). What is sleep hygiene? Sleep Foundation. Retrieved June 27, 2022, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene