AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 1, 2017

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Sleep Interruptions Worse for Mood Than Overall Reduced Amount of Sleep

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A study led by Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers found that awakening several times throughout the night is more detrimental to people’s positive moods than getting the same shortened amount of sleep without interruption. Researchers studied 62 healthy men and women randomly subjected to three sleep experimental conditions in an inpatient clinical research suite: three consecutive nights of either forced awakenings, delayed bedtimes or uninterrupted sleep. Participants subjected to eight forced awakenings and those with delayed bedtimes showed similar low positive mood and high negative mood after the first night, as measured by a standard mood assessment questionnaire administered before bedtimes. Participants were asked to rate how strongly they felt a variety of positive and negative emotions, such as cheerfulness or anger. After the second night, significant differences started to appear when the forced-awakening group had a 31-percent reduction in positive mood, while the delayed bedtime group had a decline of 12 percent, compared to the first day. Researchers said they did not find significant differences in negative mood between the two groups on any of the three days, which suggests that sleep fragmentation is especially detrimental to positive mood. “When your sleep is disrupted throughout the night, you don’t have the opportunity to progress through the sleep stages to get the amount of slow-wave sleep that is key to the feeling of restoration,” said the study’s lead author. The study also suggests that the effects of interrupted sleep on positive mood can be cumulative, since the group differences emerged after the second night and continued the day after the third night of the study. “You can imagine the hard time people with chronic sleep disorders have after repeatedly not reaching deep sleep,” the lead researcher said. However, further studies are needed to learn more about sleep stages in people with insomnia and the role played by a night of recovering sleep. To read more about this study, click here.

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