Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Angry? Sleep on It!

Sleep Deprivation - from HR Magazine, May, 1999 by Stephenie Overman
You know the feeling: It's hard to get out of bed in the morning. You can't put together two intelligent sentences before your first cup of coffee. It takes longer than usual to complete your work duties.

It's called sleep deprivation and it affects some 70 million Americans, according to the National Commission on Sleep Disorders at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. The commission's studies show that work-related problems such as increased stress, inattention and diminished productivity are caused by workers' lack of sleep or poor quality sleep. The cost for U.S. businesses is estimated at $150 billion a year.
Read the whole article at: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m3495/is_5_44/ai_54711192

Now put that together with this article just released yesterday:

Emotions Run Amok in Sleep-Deprived Brains
Charles Q. Choi, Special to LiveScienceLiveScience.com Mon., Oct 22, 12:20 PM ET
Without sleep, the emotional centers of our brains dramatically overreact to bad experiences, research now reveals.

"When we're sleep deprived, it's really as if the brain is reverting to more primitive behavior, regressing in terms of the control humans normally have over their emotions," researcher Matthew Walker, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Berkeley, told LiveScience.
While past studies have revealed that sleep loss can impair the immune system and brain processes such as learning and memory, there has been surprisingly little research into why sleep deprivation affects emotions, Walker said.

Walker and his colleagues had 26 healthy volunteers either get normal sleep or get sleep deprived, making them stay awake for roughly 35 hours. On the following day, the researchers scanned brain activity in volunteers using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while they viewed 100 images. These started off as emotionally neutral, such as photos of spoons or baskets, but they became increasingly negative in tone over time—for instance, pictures of attacking sharks or vipers.

"While we predicted that the emotional centers of the brain would overreact after sleep deprivation, we didn't predict they'd overreact as much as they did," Walker said. "They became more than 60 percent more reactive to negative emotional stimuli. That's a whopping increase—the emotional parts of the brain just seem to run amok."

The researchers pinpointed this hyperactive response to a shutdown of the prefrontal lobe, a brain region that normally keeps emotions under control. This structure is relatively new in human evolution, "and so it may not yet have adapted ways to cope with certain biological extremes," Walker speculated. "Human beings are one of the few species that really deprive themselves of sleep. It's a real oddity in nature."

The findings are detailed in the Oct. 23 issue of the journal Current Biology.
Read the whole article at http://www.sciencedaily.com.

What we can extrapolate from these two articles is that over 20% of the US population is sleep deprived; meaning that over 20% of the population may be experiencing overreactions in the emotional centers of the brain, when faced with negative stimuli. In other words, on a normal day, a person having had adequate sleep will be able to cope more effectively with negative stimuli than one who is sleep deprived.

When anger-inducing situations come your way, do you find you have no tolerance? Do you fly off the handle more quickly than you used to, and do you find that you are more stressed and less able to cope? The answer might be as simple as increasing the amount of time you spend sleeping each night.

The studies show that increasing the amount of sleep we get each night, and maintaining regular sleep patterns are ways to ensure that our brains can function at peak potential during our waking hours. Could resolving anger be that simple? While it takes more than a good night’s sleep to resolve anger, ensuring that your brain is well rested can take you a long way towards being able to evaluate your circumstances more clearly, and to make better choices about how you want to achieve positive outcomes in the face of anger.