Skip to content

Lack Of Sleep Increases Symptoms Of Depression And Anxiety: Study

Scientists say sleep loss reduces positive moods and puts us at higher risk for anxiety symptoms. 

Lack of sleep increases symptoms of depression and anxiety as well as making us physically tired, reveals new research.

People’s emotional functioning suffers when their sleep is disrupted, according to the study. Sleep loss reduces positive moods and puts us at higher risk for anxiety symptoms, say scientists.


Their study, published in the journal Psychological Bulletin, synthesized more than 50 years of research on sleep deprivation and mood. Study lead author Dr. Cara Palmer, of Montana State University in the US, said: “In our largely sleep-deprived society, quantifying the effects of sleep loss on emotion is critical for promoting psychological health.

“This study represents the most comprehensive synthesis of experimental sleep and emotion research to date, and provides strong evidence that periods of extended wakefulness, shortened sleep duration and night-time awakenings adversely influence human emotional functioning.”


Dr. Palmer and her colleagues, including co-lead author Dr. Joanne Bower, of East Anglia University, analyzed data from 154 studies spanning five decades, involving more than 5,700 participants, the majority of whom were young adults, with an average age of 23. In all the studies, researchers disrupted participants’ sleep for one or more nights.


In some experiments, the participants were kept awake for an extended period. In others, they were allowed a shorter-than-usual amount of sleep, and in others they were periodically awakened throughout the night.

Each study also measured at least one emotion-related variable after the sleep manipulation, such as participants’ self-reported mood, their response to emotional stimulus, and measures of depression and anxiety symptoms.

Overall, the researchers found that all three types of sleep loss resulted in fewer positive emotions such as joy, happiness and contentment among participants, as well as increased anxiety symptoms such as a rapid heart rate and increased worrying.


“This occurred even after short periods of sleep loss, like staying up an hour or two later than usual or after losing just a few of hours of sleep,” Dr. Palmer.  “We also found that sleep loss increased anxiety symptoms and blunted arousal in response to emotional stimuli.”


She said findings for symptoms of depression were smaller and less consistent, as were those for negative emotions such as sadness, worry and stress. Dr. Palmer says future research should include a more diverse age sample to better understand how sleep deprivation affects people at different stages of life, and could look at why some people may be more vulnerable than others to the effects of sleep loss.

She added: “Research has found that more than 30 percent of adults and up to 90 percent of teens don’t get enough sleep.

“The implications of this research for individual and public health are considerable in a largely sleep-deprived society.

“Industries and sectors prone to sleep loss, such as first responders, pilots and truck drivers, should develop and adopt policies that prioritize sleep to mitigate against the risks to daytime function and well-being.”


Produced in association with SWNS Talker

“What’s the latest with Florida Man?”

Get news, handpicked just for you, in your box.

Check out our free email newsletters

Recommended from our partners