For people who struggle with negative, recurring thoughts, sleep may be a solution. Researchers at Binghamton University in New York investigated the relationship between negative thoughts and sleep. Specifically, they evaluated whether the time a person goes to bed each night can impact negative thoughts during the day. The study revealed that going to sleep earlier and sleeping longer is associated with fewer negative thoughts. The study could lead to straightforward interventions for people with negative thoughts.
Negative thoughts are pessimistic, repetitive thoughts that people do not feel they can control. These thoughts might be worries about the past or future and are generally annoying and intrusive. Negative thoughts are typically a part of anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and social anxiety.
The researchers surveyed 100 adults at Binghamton University. The participants completed questionnaires and two computerized tasks. The researchers measured the participants’ negative thoughts by asking how often the participants worry, ruminate, or obsess over specific thoughts. They also surveyed the participants’ sleep habits, asking if they considered themselves to be morning or evening people and to define their typical sleep schedule.
Participants who sleep for a shorter duration and who go to bed later tended to have more repetitive, negative thoughts than participants who sleep longer and went to be earlier. Furthermore, participants who considered themselves to be evening people, in contrast to morning people, also had more negative thoughts.
According to study co-author Jacob Nota, an early bedtime may be a straightforward intervention for people struggling with negative thoughts. “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.”
This research is published in the journal Cognitive Therapy and Research.
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