Feeling angry, impulsive, or over-reactive? Sleep plays an important role in self-management and may just help you be a better negotiator. Here are three sleep studies that offer insights into the ways sleep, self-control, and conflict intertwine, and one quick, restorative sleep trick worth remembering.
Lack of sleep makes the emotional centers of your brain over-reactive.
A woman in one of my mediations took me aside at a break. “I just want to apologize,” she said. “I’m so reactive today. I’m not normally like this.”
“How did you sleep last night?” I asked.
“I had an awful night’s sleep,” she replied. “How did you know?”
Lack of sleep can wreak havoc with the emotional centers of our brains, making us over-reactive. And not just a little over-reactive — a lot.
In one study out of the University of California at Berkeley, sleep-deprived participants became more than 60% more reactive to negative emotional stimuli. That high number surprised even the researchers.
“The emotional parts of the brain just seem to run amok,” said one of the lead researchers.
Good sleep habits boost self-control
Just like poor sleep can make us far more over-reactive than we might normally be, good sleep habits seem to help us boost our self-control.
Good sleep habits include turning in and rising at about the same time every day, controlling exposure to light before and at bedtime (including tablet and computer screens), avoiding caffeine late in the day, and a relaxing bedtime ritual for winding down.
A Clemson University review examining the relationship between sleep habits and self-control found that good sleep habits can increase our ability to resist impulses, increase our attention levels, and improve our decision-making.
A nap can restore patience and reduce anger
For as long as I’ve known him, when my husband is upset, he finds a quiet spot and takes a nap. It turns out he’s really onto something.
University of Michigan researchers found that taking a nap can be an effective strategy to counteract impulsive behavior and boost tolerance for frustration. In their study, a 60-minute nap yielded good results compared to non-nappers.
- The night before an important negotiation or difficult conversation can be the stuff of tossing and turning. If you have practices that increase the odds you’ll get a decent sleep, be sure to use them on these nights. It’ll help you keep your balance the next day.
- If you’re a mediator, be sure your clients understand the importance of good sleep the night before a session and help them strategize about how to get one even when they’re nervous.
- If you’ve got a tough negotiation coming up and you’ve had a stressful day (or it’s late in the day), consider setting aside time for a nap beforehand. Even 20-30 minutes seems to offer some restorative power.