You know about being hangry (hungry and angry) but now a new study in the Journal of Neuroscience says people who don't get enough sleep are slangry (sleep deprived and angry).
The study found that a lack of sleep may alter your ability to process emotions and keep them in check. People who participated in the study were given a series of images that were either neutral or unpleasant to look at and told to memorize them once when they were sleep deprived and again when they were well rested.
Seems the images triggered more anxiety and stress when the participants were short on sleep. Translation: You're more likely to be cranky over minor triggers like traffic jams or a long wait in the supermarket line when you're wiped out.
The results also revealed that hyper-emotional reactions, like outbursts and meltdowns, were linked to certain sleep stages potentially suggesting that if you don't get enough sleep, or good quality sleep, it could have an effect on your mood.
"This should not come as a big surprise to most people," says Mark Aloia, PhD, health psychologist and Global Lead at Phillips HealthTech. "We even joke that people should not talk to us before we have our morning coffee."
But if you need coffee to modulate your emotions, you may not be getting enough sleep or good quality sleep, Aloia says.
"It's possible that a lack of sleep contributes to a dampening of the activity of brain regions that help regulate emotion. In other words, what you're feeling, and what you joke about, is real and it is a sign to which you may want to attend."
So how can you tell if your short fuse is simply because you're sleepy? An occasional night of tossing and turning is no big deal, but if it's happening more often and you're irritable a lot, it may be a sign you need to be evaluated for a sleep disorder like sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea, a condition in which the airway becomes blocked repeatedly during sleep, causing you to wake throughout the night in fitful slumber can put you at risk for a number of health problems including early cardiovascular issues such as heart attack and stroke--and it may explain why you're always cranky. Talk to your doctor about testing.
Sleep should be a priority. In fact, it's not a stretch to check in with other emotions besides anger. If you're sad (slad) or depressed (sleepressed) a lack of sleep could still be responsible. One study found that sleep deprivation puts a damper on people's ability to reap the emotional payoff of a positive experience. So if you got a promotion or came into a windfall and you didn't feel an increased positive affect on your mood, you might actually be exhausted.
Once you and your doctor have ruled out a sleep disorder, you can handle the occasional sleep deprived night—and accompanying grouchiness --by avoiding frustrating tasks and lots of social interactions the next day. It's not the best time to haggle with the landlord over a broken appliance or confront your co-worker about your missing sandwich. Plus, if you have a happy experience coming up like a wedding or a family reunion, try to get plenty of rest before the event since sleep can help you appreciate and relish those happy memories.