DAVIE (CBSMiami) – Ground-breaking research at Nova Southeastern University is focusing on the link between your sleep habits and your level of emotion volatility.
The data generated by the school’s researchers has major ramifications for busy professionals, like emergency room doctors and first responders, who need to make fast judgment calls.
Dr. Jamie Tartar said it’s not how long you sleep, but how well you sleep.
“As you get older, your sleep quality goes down, so it’s more difficult to get a good night’s rest,” she said.
Dr. Tartar’s team of researchers said their data shows this makes all the difference in your ability to control your emotions.
NSU researcher Isaac Chayo said fatigue is an important contributor to emotional processing.
“If you’re not getting good quality sleep, you’re going to be emotionally hyper responsive,” he said.
This particular type of research has been happening at Nova Southeastern under Dr. Tartar’s direction for the past four years.
“We know very little as scientists about what happens to you emotionally in terms of the consequences of not getting enough sleep,” said Dr. Tartar.
“What is clear to us is that the brain doesn’t always process emotions the same throughout the day,” said Chayo.
Their studies involve groups of 18 to 22 year old college students at different levels of sleep deprivation. They are shown photos that trigger a positive, negative or neutral responses. Their brain waves are then measured by computer.
NSU Researcher Christina Goben said the results show sleep deprived people had a greater negative bias.
“They were just more sensitive to the negative stimuli in general,” said Goben. “These individuals with poor sleep quality also had more depressive symptoms.”
For example, the NSU research found that while you may feel fine near the end of your business day, there’s a strong chance your brain is exhausted.
“Your brain is showing much more emotional responses than it is at 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. It’s starting to show responses to pictures it shouldn’t show responses to,” said Dr. Tartar. “The brain was a lot more sensitive to emotional information as the day went on.”
The best advice based on the study’s results: Don’t make rash, emotional decisions, especially later on in the day.
“As your brain is getting more and more sleepy, you don’t know you are fatigued or feel you’re sleepy,” said Chayo. “Sleep deprived people think they are doing great when they are not.”
Dr. Tartar said the bottom line is that while many people may not think a good night’s sleep is important, her research finds it truly is. NSU’s research on how the quality of your sleep impacts your emotional rationality has been submitted for publication in several national medical and science journals.