Lack of sleep affects our emotions, making us less positive and more anxious Health and Wellness

recent survey sleep x-ray, created by 40dB for SER and EL PAÍS, reveals that almost half of Spanish adults do not sleep well on a daily basis and most sleep fewer hours than they would like. This data matches that provided by the Spanish Federation of Sleep Medicine Societies (FESMES), according to which 10% of the Spanish population has some sleep disorder and another 30% wake up every day with the feeling that they cannot sleep. There is no problem. Restful sleep or end the day too tired.

With these data on the table, it is not strange that sleep problems are starting to become an issue that keeps us awake as a society. There is growing scientific evidence that shows a link between chronic sleep loss and the development of many diseases, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and some types of cancer.

Now, a major meta-analysis published in the Scientific Journal of the American Psychological Association has synthesized more than 50 years of research on sleep loss and its connection with our mood. The result is beyond doubt: all types of sleep loss (complete sleep loss, partial sleep loss, and sleep fragmentation) produce emotional changes the next day. The strongest and most persistent effects are a decrease in positive mood and an increase in anxiety levels.

“The results of the study are important because they reflect what happens to many people in everyday life. For example, new parents may wake up frequently to feed their babies, or people’s sleep may be temporarily affected by noise during the night, which may affect their sleep structure and frequency without changing sleep duration. alters the harmony, explains Joan Bower, author of the study and researcher at the University of East Anglia (Norwich, United Kingdom).

The scientist recalls that previous research had already shown that when we are sleep-deprived, connections are reduced between the emotional areas of our brain and the areas that should help us control these emotions. What’s new about this meta-analysis is that it shows that this association occurs even after losing just an hour or two of sleep a night. Nevertheless, participants observed a decrease in positive mood and an increase in anxiety. “Emotions control nearly every aspect of our daily lives, so depriving yourself of sleep seems like the best way to choose to be a worse driver,” says Bower.

Psychologist Nuria Roure, member of the Insomnia Working Group of the Spanish Sleep Society (SES), explains that the research results confirm what experts see every day in their consultations. “Emotional imbalance, along with physical fatigue, is the symptom that people most often report in counseling,” the author emphasizes. i finally fell asleep (Vergara). This expert expresses her satisfaction at the fact that more and more research is focusing on the emotional impact of lack of sleep, an aspect that is generally less studied than the relationship between rest and certain pathologies.

Roure explains that, if emotions were the pedals of a car, a good rest would allow the right balance between the use of the accelerator and the brakes. Lack of sleep, however, would be the equivalent of driving without brakes: “When we don’t sleep well we allow ourselves to be driven more by our most primitive instincts and less by the most rational part of our brain, which is why That we have a greater tendency to “behave more impulsively, lose our nerve, worry more, eat high-calorie foods, or watch excessive TV.” And according to the psychologist, the problem is that we often enter a vicious cycle: if we sleep less, the next day we are more sensitive to emotions and generate higher levels of anxiety than in the morning. They will worsen our sleep because our brain does not disconnect, so the next day we will be even more tired. And so on in an infinite loop. According to one study, this cyclical mechanism would explain why insufficient sleep is one of the main predictors in the development of burn out (Professional burnout syndrome).

Mental health is significantly affected in the long term.

As Joan Bower points out, the meta-analysis only analyzed the immediate effects (the next day) of sleep loss on emotional health, so it has yet to be studied what the long-term effects may be, although in this regard The scientific evidence is crystal clear: Long-term sleep deprivation may be linked to poor long-term mental health. British suggests, “Finding out whether this is related to changes in our emotional functioning due to sleep loss is an important future direction for research.”

His opinion is shared by Francesca Canales, a psychiatrist at the Multidisciplinary Sleep Unit at the Son Espaces Hospital in Palma de Mallorca, who says that the scientific evidence points to a bidirectional relationship between sleep disorders and mental health problems: “The estimate is that eight out of ten patients with mental disorders during the acute phase and approximately three out of ten during the follow-up phase have insomnia. Other studies have also shown that insomnia precedes depression.

The expert believes that the data of this meta-analysis should be taken into account by political regulators to implement actions that prioritize the comfort of the population and promote a more rational program. According to Canales, particularly important in this sense is the case of the adolescent population, whose school and extracurricular programs push them towards chronic sleep deprivation.

“In a country that lives in the afternoon and sleeps late, starting classes at eight in the morning for teenagers is tantamount to depriving them of sleep. I look for advice to the boys and girls who finish training at 10:30 pm. If we say that it is advisable to wait about three hours before sleeping after doing intense physical exercise, we are talking about young people who fall asleep at 1:30 and then have to get up at seven in the morning. Class”, believes the psychiatrist, who points out that studies show that the anxiety-inducing effects of sleep deprivation are even more pronounced in young adults. “These types of well-founded articles should have an impact on policy, because we are already seeing a terrible mental health epidemic affecting young people. And yes, it’s great to hire more psychiatrists and psychologists, but perhaps it would be better to invest in prevention,” he added.

Nuria Roure speaks in the same sense, pointing to the need to invest in the training of medical professionals in cognitive-behavioral therapy, “which has been shown to improve sleep the most and most in the long term.” According to the psychologist, medications can be helpful at first (“like a crutch in those moments when we are overwhelmed on an emotional level”), but then non-pharmacological treatments are needed that address the problem of sleep loss at its root. Are. : “If not, we will end up leading the world in the consumption of benzodiazepines, anxiolytics and hypnotics, which have no long-term effectiveness because the underlying problem persists.”

Joan Bower believes that this and other studies reinforce the idea that sleep should be a public health priority and should be promoted in the same way that healthy eating or regular physical exercise is promoted. “If we are able to help improve the sleep health of the population, it is likely that this will improve many other aspects of physical and mental health and well-being,” they concluded.

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