Persistent insomnia and loss of emotional regulation

By: Dr. Victor Marchione | Mental Health | Thursday, September 10, 2015 - 12:33 PM

InsomniaLack of emotional regulation has been shown to lead to insomnia, this according to new findings. Published in the British Journal of Health Psychology research team lead Markus Jansson-Fröjmark said, “These findings are important because, though the effect size is small, they suggest that teaching people strategies for regulating their emotions might help prevent new cases of insomnia to occur and decrease the risk of persistent insomnia.”

Surveys were taken from 2333 adults from Sweden. They were asked questions based on emotional regulation and insomnia. Questions regarding emotional regulation involved the participants to answer about their difficulties with impulses and emotional awareness. Sleep problem questions asked participants about their difficulty falling asleep, and how it affects their daily lives.

Initial analysis of the results did not show a link between emotion regulation and insomnia, but during a follow-up survey taken with 1887 of the original participants, researchers found those who saw a decline in their ability to regulate their emotions had developed insomnia.

A reduction in ability to regulate emotions increased a person’s risk to develop or report persistent insomnia by 11 percent.

Mental and emotional causes of insomnia

Insomnia is a sleep disorder which makes it difficult to fall or stay asleep. It doesn’t matter how tired a person is, if they have insomnia, they simply cannot sleep. Individuals with insomnia often wake up fatigued, unrefreshed and drained, and completing daily tasks can be difficult because they are simply too tired. Lack of sleep can also lead to long-term detrimental affects on a person’s health.

Mental and emotional factors can come into play when discussing causes of insomnia. Some of them include:

  • Stress, post-traumatic stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Medical conditions
  • Changes in environment
  • Poor sleep habits
  • Medications
  • Stimulants like caffeine
  • Eating too much, too late at night
  • Mental excitement and overstimulation
  • Anger and resentment
  • Worrying

Symptoms of insomnia include:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Awakening throughout the night
  • Awakening too early
  • Not waking up refreshed of relaxed
  • Daytime tiredness
  • Irritability, depression, anxiety
  • Lack of focus and concentration
  • Increase in errors and accidents
  • Tension headaches
  • Stomach and intestine distress
  • Ongoing sleep worries

Tips to regulate your emotions

Tips to regulate your emotionsWe have many different emotions which fit a variety of situations and scenarios. For example, if someone tells a funny joke we laugh and are happy. If we lose a pet we become sad or depressed. Regulating emotions is important as it assists us in social settings. If we lash out at a joke, those around us may feel uncomfortable or concerned as that is not a common emotion response to the situation.

If you are finding your emotions are getting the best of you and are hindering your daily life, here are some tips to better help you regulate your emotions.

  • Be selective of situations: If you know a situation will trigger negative emotions, try to avoid it. For example, if it angers you to be late, leave earlier to arrive on time. Or, if long line-ups cause anger, try shopping at less busier hours of the day.
  • Modify the situation: If you have high expectations, you may find you’re left disappointed when you don’t reach them. Instead, modify the situation in order to achieve your expectation. Modifying the situation can work for other emotions as well.
  • Shift your attentional focus: If you focus on people or things that create feelings of anger or inferiority, shift your focus onto things or people which make you feel confident and happier. For example, if you’re at the gym, don’t focus on those lifting more or running faster – instead focus on your own progress or another person at the same pace as you.
  • Change your thoughts: When we feel threatened we may become angry; our emotions are strongly tied to how we perceive a situation. Thus, when you are feeling negative emotions – change your thoughts about the situation.
  • Change your response: If the prior four options don’t work or cannot be done, then you must simply take control of the situation and change your response. It may be difficulty when your heart is beating and feels like it’s coming out of your chest, but taking a moment to breathe and control your response will allow you to control your emotions rather than be controlled by them.

Emotions and sleep can go hand-in-hand, so for best control of your emotions, as well as health, it’s advised you get proper and adequate sleep. If you do have issues with sleep speak to your doctor about getting a sleep test to see what is really going on.

Related Reading:

Why uncontrollable laughter and crying is a serious health concern

On the stage of life, our emotions tend to mimic classic theatre masks. Representing the division between comedy and tragedy, the masks are symbols of drama. Simply put, when something is funny, we laugh. When something is sad, we cry. These are typical reactions to an event or story. Continue reading…

How your emotions can affect your health

Fear, anger, depression and satisfaction are the four physiologically grounded human emotions. There are also secondary emotions such as guilt, gratitude, elation, nostalgia, love and shame, which are thought to be acquired during the process of socialization (one’s social upbringing). Continue reading…


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