Just One Night of Lost Sleep Scrambles Your Emotions


By Heather Callaghan

Readers – do you know how many mental, personality, social and developmental disorders are indicated by modern psychiatry where there are symptoms of emotional dysregulation? Before you ever self-diagnose yourself with one or figure you must be in a state of arrested development – consider the amount of sleep you are getting! Or rather, not getting. It’s nearly impossible to cheerfully join the rest of the human race if a person feels like a confused ghost because they are lacking one of the most basic needs of the body – something nearly all of us take for granted.

And yes, you can get caught up on rest, but it should never be skipped. Sleep as many hours as needed until you know you simply don’t need as many hours. Then, establish a delightful sleep ritual you can look forward to every night by 10 p.m. (More ideas at the bottom,) Relish in the restoration and enjoy greater emotional health and mental clarity!

Tel Aviv University study pinpoints neural mechanism responsible for impaired neutrality due to sleep loss – In other words, the lack of sleep tampers with your emotions…

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American Friends of Tel Aviv Uni writes:

Cranky or grumpy after a long night? Your brain’s ability to regulate emotions is probably compromised by fatigue. This is bad news for 30 percent of American adults who get less than six hours of sleep per night, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A new Tel Aviv University study has identified the neurological mechanism responsible for disturbed emotion regulation and increased anxiety due to only one night’s lack of sleep. The research reveals the changes sleep deprivation can impose on our ability to regulate emotions and allocate brain resources for cognitive processing.

The research was led by Prof. Talma Hendler of TAU’s Sagol School of Neuroscience, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, and School of Psychological Sciences, and conducted by TAU graduate student Eti Ben-Simon at the Center for Brain Functions at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center. It was published recently in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Nothing is neutral any more?

“Prior to our study, it was not clear what was responsible for the emotional impairments triggered by sleep loss,” said Prof. Hendler. “We assumed that sleep loss would intensify the processing of emotional images and thus impede brain capacity for executive functions. We were actually surprised to find that it significantly impacts the processing of both neutral and emotionally-charged images.

“It turns out we lose our neutrality. The ability of the brain to tell what’s important is compromised. It’s as if suddenly everything is important,” she said.

For the purpose of the study, Ben-Simon kept 18 adults awake all night to take two rounds of tests while undergoing brain mapping (fMRI and/or EEG), first following a good night’s sleep and the second following a night of lack of sleep in the lab. One of the tests required participants to describe in which direction small yellow dots moved over distracting images. These images were “positively emotional” (a cat), “negatively emotional” (a mutilated body), or “neutral” (a spoon).

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When participants had a good night’s rest, they identified the direction of the dots hovering over the neutral images faster and more accurately, and their EEG pointed to differing neurological responses to neutral and emotional distractors. When sleep-deprived, however, participants performed badly in the cases of both the neutral and the emotional images, and their electrical brain responses, as measured by EEG, did not reflect a highly different response to the emotional images. This pointed to decreased regulatory processing.

“It could be that sleep deprivation universally impairs judgment, but it is more likely that a lack of sleep causes neutral images to provoke an emotional response,” said Ben-Simon.

Sleep Loss and Losing a Sense of Proportion

The researchers conducted a second experiment testing concentration levels. Participants were shown neutral and emotional images while performing a task demanding their attention while ignoring distracting background pictures with emotional or neutral content — the depression of a key or button at certain moments — while inside an fMRI scanner. This time researchers measured activity levels in different parts of the brain as they completed the cognitive task.

The team found that participants after only one night of lack of sleep were distracted by every single image (neutral and emotional), while well-rested participants were only distracted by emotional images. The effect was indicated by activity change in the amygdala, a major limbic node responsible for emotional processing in the brain.

“We revealed a change in the emotional specificity of the amygdala, a region of the brain associated with detection and valuation of salient cues in our environment, in the course of a cognitive task.” said Prof. Hendler.

“These results reveal that, without sleep, the mere recognition of what is an emotional and what is a neutral event is disrupted. We may experience similar emotional provocations from all incoming events, even neutral ones, and lose our ability to sort out more or less important information. This can lead to biased cognitive processing and poor judgment as well as anxiety,” said Prof. Hendler.

The new findings emphasize the vital role sleep plays in maintaining good emotional balance in our life for promoting mental health. The researchers are currently examining how novel methods for sleep intervention (mostly focusing on REM sleep) may help reduce the emotional dysregulation seen in anxiety, depression, and traumatic stress disorders.

Ideas for sleep help (some are affiliate links that help our operations) – I’ve personally tried and use all of them:

Calm Magnesium powder

Sea salt under the tongue to wake up feeling refreshed and to retain enough water to sleep without constant need for water and bathroom breaks

Lavender bubble bath or shower


Magnesium transdermal spray

Rescue Remedy Sleep – for when you can’t sleep due to shock, fright, upset or racing thoughts

Melatonin (As a last resort only!)

Essential oil combo with lavender, blue tansy, chamomile, Valerian, Orange Oil, Tangerine Oil, Ylang Ylang, patchouli oils

Ignatia 30C homeopathic, if indicated. Great for scrambled emotions when nerves are “crashing” and a person feels too “up and down.”

Stay off of computer and don’t eat after 8 p.m.

Switch to this dandelion coffee substitute after 4 p.m.

Meditation, breathing and/or prayer – pray or send light & love to those you love, and try doing that for your enemies too!

Read in a big comfy chair.

Gratitude trick: go through the alphabet and for each letter think of something you’re grateful for that begins with each letter – you might get “z-z-z’s” before you get to “N.”

This article (Just One Night of Lost Sleep Scrambles Regulation of Emotions) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Heather Callaghan and Natural Blaze.com.

Heather Callaghan is an independent researcher, natural health blogger and food freedom activist. You can see her work at NaturalBlaze.com. Like at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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