Healthy Sleeping Habits

How Going To Sleep Angry Can Compromise Your Quality of Sleep, According to Sleep Doctors

Natalie Arroyo Camacho

Photo by Getty Images/People Images
All kinds of things we do in our waking hours can have implications on the quality of sleep we get: what and when we eat, what and when we drink (especially alcohol), and the environment in which we try to snooze, to name just a few examples. Perhaps unsurprisingly, your mood can also play a role; according to research and experts alike, the effects of going to sleep angry aren't the best. A 2016 study conducted by Iowa State University found that doing so can result in delayed sleep onset, sleep fragmentation, and restless sleep.

“Instead of waking up feeling recharged, when a person goes to bed angry, they...wake up exhausted,” says Jade Wu, PhD, behavioral sleep medicine specialist, and sleep advisor at Mattress Firm's platform, Sleep.com. “After all, they've been internally fighting instead of resting. This exhaustion might, in turn, make them more frustrated the next day,” she says.

“Instead of waking up feeling recharged, when a person goes to bed angry, they...wake up exhausted. After all, they've been internally fighting instead of resting." —Jade Wu, PhD, behavioral sleep medicine specialist

Because anger is an emotion that activates our fight-or-flight response, going to sleep angry can “rev up our bodies and mind, overriding our natural sleepiness at bedtime,” says Dr. Wu. One of the other effects of going to sleep angry is that it’s possible to set yourself up for a vicious cycle, adds Dr. Wu, because you’re originally upset about one thing before you go to bed, and then you might get more angry because you can’t doze off.

“If you’re angry at someone, especially as it gets later in the night, you might begin stressing about how much sleep you’ll be able to get,” says Dr. Wu, adding that sometimes, the thought of compromised sleep can be more stressful than the actual argument. “If you are in this situation, talk to the other person, and schedule a time to talk the next day,” she adds. Of course, being able to go this route requires the argument at hand to be low-stakes enough to feel comfortable tabling until the agreed upon time. But, when it is a feasible option, taking it can make it possible to get rest without opening yourself up to risks associated with going to sleep angry, Dr. Wu adds.

In line with this advice, Raj Dasgupta, MD, sleep expert and spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, suggests setting up “worry time.” Because we all need time to unwind before bed, Dr. Dasgupta says it’s not great to try to resolve conflict at night, so if there’s a touchy subject you want to discuss (e.g., something that worries you), setting aside “worry time” during the day to address it and come up with a plan to move forward can be helpful for preventing restless nights after going to sleep angry.

But, those are just a few tactics the experts recommend for protecting yourself against going to sleep angry. For more, keep reading.

4 tips to help you to calm down before bed and mitigate negative effects of going to sleep angry

1. Don't discuss hard topics before bedtime.

To guarantee quality sleep, Dr. Dasgupta says, there are certain conversations you want to avoid before you get under the covers.

“Talking about finances before going to bed can’t be good. And, of course, family issues—that’s a very sensitive topic,” says Dr. Dasgupta. The idea here, he says, is that if you can avoid having these potentially charged conversations before bed, you won’t have to worry about going to sleep angry (or being sleep-deprived as a result) at all.

2. Go for a walk.

“If safe, put on headphones and take a short walk,” says Dr. Wu. “Even if it’s walking to the end of the block and back, the fresh air and change of scenery will calm you down.” Considering that research shows going for a walk outdoors can reduce stress, it makes sense that doing so might help reduce feelings of anger and lead to better quality sleep, as well.

3. Read or listen to a podcast.

“Another great strategy is to read or listen to a podcast,” Dr. Wu says. “When you try to fall asleep angry, your mind will most likely race. If you have something to focus on, like a book or podcast, you will be able to let go of angry thoughts for now, when it's not helpful to keep ruminating on them.”

4. Get out of your head and into your body.

“Instead of turning that argument over and over in your head, focus on your breath and other sensations in your body—even if they're unpleasant,” says Dr. Wu. “This tethers you to the here and now and allows your mind to slow down its spiral.”

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