Insomnia is characterized by the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. People who experience insomnia find that they are unable to fall asleep easily, and even when they do, they often wake up repeatedly. The sleep they do get is often fragmented and results in a restless and unbeneficial quality of sleep. Deep and meaningful sleep is necessary to restore the body and recover muscle tone and brain activity depleted during waking hours. It is theorized that the events experienced during the day directly impact the type of sleep a person gets. Some research has examined the types of events and their relationship to sleep and sleep problems such as insomnia. To expand upon this, Marie Vandekerckhove of the Department of Biological Psychology at Vrije University in Brussels, Belgium, recently led a study that assessed the way in which events were processed and how that affected the quality of a person’s sleep.
For her study, Vandekerckhove employed two different coping strategies, an experiential and an analytical approach, and evaluated their relationship to sleep in a sample of 28 individuals. The participants were prompted with a negative-failure scenario and then instructed to either address the situation experientially, using acceptance and understanding of their emotions, or analytically, by identifying the cause and effect of their experience. Vandekerckhove assessed the sleep structure of the participants after they engaged their coping strategies and found that those who addressed the failure event experientially had a better quality of sleep than those who used analytical tactics.
Specifically, Vandekerckhove discovered that the experiential approach resulted in less stress and irritability. Although these participants took longer to fall asleep, they remained asleep longer than the analytical group. Vandekerckhove believes that these findings demonstrate the benefits of experiential coping when faced with troubling events. Negative moods and stress decreased when they were approached through an accepting and felt way, and they did not decrease when they were analyzed. Vandekerckhove concluded by saying, “Experiential awareness and openness for one’s own affective experience and meaning appears to be adaptive in the processing of painful failure experiences even on the indirect implicit level of sleep physiology.”
Vandekerckhove, M., Kestemont, J., Gross, J. J., Weiss, R., Schotte, C., Exadaktylos, V., et al. (2012). Experiential versus analytical emotion regulation and sleep: Breaking the link between negative events and sleep disturbance. Emotion. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0028501
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