Sleep Loss Can Hike Anger When Frustrated

New research shows that losing just a couple hours of sleep  can leave you with a short emotional fuse. The consequential anger can make it more difficult to deal with frustrating or annoying situations.

Many studies have shown a correlation between sleep and anger. However, the question remained about whether sleep loss caused negative emotions or if anger was responsible for disrupted sleep, said Dr. Zlatan Krizan, professor of psychology at Iowa State.

“Despite typical tendencies to get somewhat used to irritating conditions – an uncomfortable shirt or a barking dog – sleep-restricted individuals actually showed a trend toward increased anger and distress, essentially reversing their ability to adapt to frustrating conditions over time,” Krizan said.

To prove Krizan’s hypothesis, study participants were randomly split into two groups: one group was asked to maintain their normal sleep routine while the second restricted their sleep by two to four hours each night for two nights. This difference reflected the sleep loss many people experience in everyday life, Krizan said.

To measure anger, Krizan and Garrett Hisler, an ISU doctoral student in psychology, had participants come to the lab – before and after the sleep manipulation – to answer questions while listening to brown noise (similar to the sound of spraying water) or more aversive white noise (similar to a static signal).

Krizan says the purpose was to create uncomfortable conditions, which tend to provoke anger.

“In general, anger was substantially higher for those who were sleep restricted,” Krizan said.
“We manipulated how annoying the noise was during the task and as expected, people reported more anger when the noise was more unpleasant. When sleep was restricted, people reported even more anger, regardless of the noise.”

It is well established that sleep loss can increase negative emotions, such as anxiety and sadness, while it decreases positive emotions, such as happiness and enthusiasm. Krizan and Hisler measured these effects to better understand the relationship between sleep, anger and emotions.

Krizan says they found sleep loss to uniquely impact anger. The researchers also tested whether subjective sleepiness explained intense feelings of anger. Sleepiness accounted for 50 percent of sleep restriction on anger, suggesting individuals’ sense of sleepiness may point to whether they are likely to become angered, Krizan said.

To demonstrate whether the experimental evidence in the lab extends to daily life, Krizan and Anthony Miller, an ISU doctoral student, are working on a separate study analyzing data from 200 college students who kept a sleep diary for a month. Krizan says each day students recorded their sleep and rated feelings of anger.
The initial results show students consistently reported more anger than what is typical for them on days when they got less sleep than usual.

Based on the results, Krizan and Miller are now collecting data to test if sleep loss causes actual aggressive behavior toward others.

This study shows that sleep is incredibly important – for your health and the wellness of your personal relationships. Make an appointment with us today to learn more.

The study appears in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.
Source: Iowa State University

If not now, when?

You don’t have to go through this alone. Seriously. Let’s get started.

Recent Posts

Featured Testimonials

Chris B.5.0
Read More
Kids are always hard and as a parent it's not always easy to see objectively what is really going on. Jennifer helped me talk through challenges/issues with my oldest son that were running through my head. In the end she provided me a solid perspective to build on and because of that I have been able to manage the situation much better. Easy conversation and very helpful.
Ravenna S.5.0
Read More
Jennifer is such a wonderful and genuine therapist. She is extremely kind and understanding. She comprehends couple and mental health problems precisely. I would definitely recommend her to anyone that is seeking help.
Ravenna5.0
Read More
Jennifer is such a wonderful and genuine therapist. She is extremely kind and understanding. She comprehends couple and mental health problems precisely. I would definitely recommend her to anyone that is seeking help.
Timothy 5.0
Read More
I have been seeing Jennifer De Francisco for about a year, and she has helped me so much with the unhappiness I thought would never go away. Jennifer’s compassion and empathy made me feel safe enough to open up and talk about the uncomfortable feelings I didn’t even know were causing my sadness. With Jennifer’s help, I am now aware of my negative thoughts. Instead of avoiding them, I can work through them. She has helped change my life.
Denise5.0
Read More
It was tough when we first started with Jennifer , but through difficult conversations and understanding some of the causes of how closed off we were to each other, we worked through it and are in a good place. The idea that we could break up is the furthest thing from my mind now, and going in to work on our relationship was the best thing to do. One of the things that really helped was that I felt Jennifer really cared that our relationship worked and that we improved things between us. I think that is rare, and always helped me not give up hope.
George S.5.0
Read More
I know people hate to hear this, but relationships take work, especially with kids and stress. I would suggest relationship counseling for any married couple, even if it were just monthly or when things get tough. We continue to see Jennifer after our initial problem because it keeps us on track. Best of luck to all couples looking for help- Jennifer is a wonderful resource.