CW: This article deals with anxiety and depression.

Most of us struggle to get the advised eight hours sleep every night when we go to bed. But through not doing so, we may be damaging our mental health. The findings of a recent study by Bingham University in Nigeria indicate that getting less than eight hours sleep each night has been linked to intrusive and repetitive negative thoughts which are often associated with depression and anxiety.

The researchers looked into the sleep quality of a collection of individuals who experience moderate to high levels of negative thoughts. They exposed the subjects to a range of images which were intended to trigger an emotional response, and then proceeded to track their attention via their eye movements. They established that sleep disruptions or shortened sleep could be linked to a difficulty to divert attention away from negative stimuli, which leads to fixating on negative thoughts, and emotions.

The researchers found that the subjects “have some tendencies to have thoughts get stuck in their heads, and their elevated negative thinking makes it difficult for them to disengage with the negative stimuli that we exposed them to.”

“While other people may be able to receive negative information and move on, the participants had trouble ignoring it.”


These kinds of negative thinking patterns can leave individuals prone to various types of psychological disorders, such as anxiety and depression. The researchers established that sleep disruptions and the way affect basic mental processes which assist us in shutting out obsessive negative thoughts.

The researchers are currently further exploring their discoveries, by evaluating how the timing and duration of sleep can contribute to the development of various psychological disorders. If their theories outlined in the paper published in ScieneceDirect prove to be correct, what they have discovered could change the way that psychologists treat mental illness patients in the future.

*Feature image from New Scientist.

Originally Published January 2018