Getting more of this could improve your happiness immediately

Each person’s time on this planet can be likened to a rollercoaster ride, filled with highs and lows. No one’s life is 100% perfect and great all the time, but it’s those bad times that help us appreciate and savor the good moments. 

However, if you find yourself unable to find joy in and appreciate those good moments and positive experiences, a new study may have just uncovered why. Researchers from the University of British Columbia have found that an inadequate sleep schedule can seriously influence how one reacts to both positive and negative events.

In short, if an individual isn’t getting enough sleep, they won’t feel as much joy or contentment when good things happen to them. Similarly, in the event of something negative occurring, that person will react more emotionally and irrationally.

“When people experience something positive, such as getting a hug or spending time in nature, they typically feel happier that day,” explains study author Nancy Sin, assistant professor in UBC’s department of psychology, in a university release. “But we found that when a person sleeps less than their usual amount, they don’t have as much of a boost in positive emotions from their positive events.”

Lack of sleep quite literally robs us of our ability to feel joy, researchers say. That’s a scary notion, and it may just cause the night owls of the world to reconsider their routines.

To come to these conclusions, the study’s authors analyzed diary samples and phone interviews among nearly 2,000 U.S. citizens. Participants reported their sleep habits, daily experiences, and emotions on a daily basis for eight straight days.

Predictably, many participants reported dealing with several negative situations or annoying events, such as arguments, work or family-related stress, and discriminatory incidents. Whenever a subject reported getting less sleep than usual the night before one of these incidents, they always experienced a “greater loss of positive emotions” in response to said event.

In other words, it’s much harder for people to stay calm and positive in the face of adversity without enough sleep. While that’s obviously a hindrance on a purely practical level, these findings also have many long term health implications. If someone is constantly becoming overwhelmed with stress, anxiety, and anger at the slighted of inconveniences, they’re also putting themselves at a greater risk of inflammation, heart problems, and an earlier death in general.

The Greek philosopher Epictetus once said, “it’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” So many of the problems we create for ourselves are born out of our own reactions. This study serves as tangible proof that more sleep helps us deal with the day-to-day events of life in a healthier way.

“The recommended guideline for a good night’s sleep is at least seven hours, yet one in three adults don’t meet this standard,” professor Sin adds. “A large body of research has shown that inadequate sleep increases the risk for mental disorders, chronic health conditions, and premature death. My study adds to this evidence by showing that even minor night-to-night fluctuations in sleep duration can have consequences in how people respond to events in their daily lives.”

“We were also interested in whether adults with chronic health conditions might gain an even larger benefit from sleep than healthy adults,” she concludes. “For those with chronic health conditions, we found that longer sleep–compared to one’s usual sleep duration–led to better responses to positive experiences on the following day.”

The full study can be found here, published in Health Psychology.