If I miss out on even the littlest bit of rest, I am the world’s grumpiest person. In my defense, it makes sense: Sleep is essentially the most important part of wellness. And according to a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, lack of sleep has the ability to intensify feelings of anger, which explains my unshakably grumpy disposition when I lack sleep.
Now, it might seem like it goes without saying that you’re mildly agitated when you don’t get enough sleep—who wouldn’t be? But according to the researchers at Iowa State University, there’s always been speculation about whether the actual sleep loss was to blame for exacerbated feelings of anger or if preexisting anger was responsible for disrupting the sleep cycle. So, they decided to recruit a group of participants in order to get to the bottom of sleep’s unique relationship with anger.
The scientists split the subjects into two groups: One group continued with their normal sleep schedule, and the second group was instructed to restrict their sleep by two to four hours a night for two nights. The first group turned out to sleep an average of seven hours a night while the second ended up getting around four and a half hours. And though the latter may seem extreme, Zlatan Krizan, Ph.D., an Iowa State psychology professor and one of the study authors, explained that this exemplifies the sleep loss we typically experience on any given day.
In order to measure anger and see if that sleep loss provoked it, the researchers had these participants then come into a lab after the sleep manipulation and rate a variety of products, once while listening to brown noise (which sounded like spraying water) and then while listening to harsher white nose (which sounded like a static signal). These uncomfortable audio-induced conditions were used in order to provoke anger, Dr. Krizan explained in the news release.
“In general, anger was substantially higher for those who were sleep-restricted,” he 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.”
Clearly, proper sleep is of utmost importance in order to avoid unnecessary hostility.
So if you’re feeling angrier than usual, you might want to catch up on sleep. If you’re having trouble getting a high-quality snooze, don’t be afraid to get strategic about your sleep schedule—if not for its abundance of well-known health benefits, then at the very least to dispel some of your rage.