Going to bed early could help individuals avoid repetitive negative thinking, according to the latest study.
The study, conducted by Jacob Nota and Meredith Coles of Binghampton University in New York, NY, is published in the journal Cognitive Therapy and Research.
Previous research has associated sleep problems with repetitive negative thoughts, but Nota and Coles wanted to investigate whether there is a link between having these negative thoughts and the time a person goes to bed at night.
According to the authors, repetitive negative thinking is "defined as an abstract, perseverative, negative focus on one's problems and experiences that is difficult to control."
Individuals who have such thoughts tend to worry too much about the future or the past, and they experience intrusive thoughts that can be bothersome.
Nota and Coles say individuals who have such thoughts typically suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, compulsive disorder or social anxiety disorder. Likewise, these individuals typically experience sleep problems.
Adequate sleep may be 'inexpensive intervention for intrusive thoughts'
For their investigation, the researchers asked 100 students from the university to complete several questionnaires and two computerized assignments, which measured how much they worried, ruminated or obsessed about something - thus measuring repetitive negative thinking.
Then, the team asked the students whether they were "morning or evening types" and whether they have regular sleep hours or whether they tend to have a later sleep-wake schedule.
Results showed that the students who slept for shorter periods and went to bed later experienced more repetitive negative thoughts, compared with those who slept for longer periods and went to bed earlier.
Additionally, the students who identified as "evening types" also experienced more repetitive negative thoughts.
The researchers say their findings suggest that disruption to sleep may be associated with the development of repetitive negative thinking, and they believe individuals at risk of developing a disorder with such intrusive thoughts should focus on getting adequate sleep.
"Making sure that sleep is obtained during the right time of day may be an inexpensive and easily disseminable intervention for individuals who are bothered by intrusive thoughts," says Nota.
The next step for the research team is to investigate how sleep data can be used to help patients with anxiety disorders. Commenting further, Coles says:
"If further findings support the relation between sleep timing and repetitive negative thinking, this could one day lead to a new avenue for treatment of individuals with internalizing disorders. Studying the relation between reductions in sleep duration and psychopathology has already demonstrated that focusing on sleep in the clinic also leads to reductions in symptoms of psychopathology."
Medical News Today recently reported on a study that suggested using e-readers at night could harm sleep quality because the light from them suppresses sleep hormones. Researchers from that study found that after using e-readers at night, study participants were more tired and took longer to become alert the next morning.
Meanwhile, another study suggested poor sleep increases the risk of dementia as a result of changes occurring within the brain.