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How Quality Sleep Can Improve Your Emotional Regulation

Everything suffers when you're sleep deprived, including your emotions. When you're not getting enough sleep, it's tough to feel positive, and you're more sensitive to stressors. You may experience difficulty expressing your feelings well -- and you're not able to recognize the emotions of others as easily as you could if you were well rested.

To Increase Positive Emotions, Increase Sleep

A recent study indicates there's a relationship between insomnia and depression and anxiety. People who had poor sleep quality correlated with high negative emotions and low positive emotions.

When people get high-quality sleep, they are more likely to experience high positive emotions. However, good sleep doesn't necessarily mean that negative emotions will be decreased.

Sleep Well to Deal Better With Stress

A lack of sleep can make you more sensitive to emotional stressors. This stress is easy to understand if you've ever been impatient with someone when you're sleep deprived. There's no question that a lack of sleep can make you more susceptible to moodiness and irritability.

Sleep is restorative for daily functioning and can influence the way you react to stressful events. Sleep deprivation tends to make us more sensitive to emotional and stressful stimuli and events. When you sleep better, you're in a better positive to cope with emotional events.

Improve Emotional Communication With Better Sleep

People who are sleep deprived experience diminished emotional expressivity and impaired emotional recognition, which means that sleep-deprived people don't express their emotions well and aren't able to recognize others’ emotions easily. Lack of sleep can affect social interactions.

Another effect of sleep deprivation is an increase in emotional reactivity, meaning you may feel the greater emotional effects when you're short on sleep.

Improving Emotional Regulation With Better Sleep

If you're experiencing difficulty with stress, processing emotions, expressing emotions, or understanding emotions, consider your sleep health and whether sleep deprivation could be contributing to negative emotions.

More than one-third of American adults don't get enough sleep on a regular basis. Adults ages 18 to 60 years old should sleep at least seven hours each night. But too often, that's not happening -- and people who are sleep deprived suffer from an increased risk of mental distress and physical conditions.

It's always important to do your best to get the sleep you need each night, but it is especially necessary if you're struggling with emotional regulation. Consider these tips to improve sleep and give yourself the rest and foundation you need to process emotions healthily.

  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day and night offers a consistent routine that becomes easier over time. The more consistent you are with your sleep, the faster you'll relax each night and drift off. Waking at the same time becomes easier as well, and you may find yourself waking up before your alarm if you're regularly getting enough sleep.

  • Maintain a regular bedtime routine. As is the case with a regular sleep schedule, a bedtime routine offers consistency and makes it easier to fall asleep. Your bedtime routine can be simple, such as washing your face, brushing your teeth, and doing a short deep breathing exercise before falling asleep.

  • Make getting enough sleep a priority. If you lead a busy lifestyle, there are significant demands on your time, and sometimes, sleep is sacrificed to make up for other necessities. However, resting is essential for functioning well in your daily life, and your lifestyle and mental health will suffer without enough sleep. Prioritize sleep over other activities, so you can get the rest you need to perform your best each day.

  • Reduce or eliminate nighttime screen exposure. Many of us use screens at home, such as computers, laptops, televisions, and mobile devices. They're a part of daily life for most people, and it can be tough to shut them off -- especially if you enjoy watching TV or catching up on social media at night. But the blue wavelength light emitted by electronic screens can be disruptive to sleep, sending a signal to your brain that it's daytime and time to be energized even when it's time to go to sleep. Reduce or eliminate your exposure to screens and bright lights at night, and stop screen time at least one hour before bed so you can relax and get your rest.

  • Get treatment for sleep disorders. If you're suffering from chronic sleep deprivation, you may have a sleep disorder. Insomnia, sleep apnea, and other sleep disorders can severely interfere with the quantity and quality of the sleep you experience each night and can leave you extremely sleep deprived. You may feel hopeless if you're experiencing night after sleepless night, but there are effective treatments for sleep disorders that can help you get the rest you need each night.

  • Practice good sleep hygiene. Good sleep hygiene means practicing good sleep habits, such as maintaining a regular sleep schedule and bedtime routine, as well as avoiding risks that can make it more difficult to sleep well at night. Some good sleep hygiene practices include avoiding late night caffeine or heavy meals, exercising early in the day rather than close to bedtime, and limiting daytime naps. If you experience acid reflux, avoid spicy foods at night, and make sure you don't eat large meals at night. Avoid drinking alcohol as a nightcap, as although it can help you fall asleep, alcohol consumption will disrupt your sleep and prevent you from getting the REM and deep sleep you need to truly rest.

  • Make your bedroom sleep friendly. Your bedroom should be a healthy place to sleep. Sleep-inducing bedrooms should be quiet, dark, cool, and comfortable. If your lumpy or sagging mattress needs to be replaced, keep an eye out for times that mattresses are discounted, like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Use blackout curtains to keep your bedroom dark at night and block out light that may keep your room too warm. Fans can help keep your bedroom cool, increase airflow, and provide a source of white noise. Choose light, pastel, or neutral colors for your walls, and keep your bedroom design simple so it's not overwhelming.

Amy Highland is a sleep expert at She loves taking naps during thunderstorms and cuddling up with a blanket, book, and cats.


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