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  • Writer's pictureAlexander James

Can The Quality Of Our Sleep Be Subject To Cognitive Bias?

There is a well established link between a good night’s sleep and positive mental and physical health. Proper sleep improves concentration and sharpens cognitive abilities, eases stress and anxiety, and boosts the immune system. Adults are generally thought to need at least seven hours sleep in order to feel fully rested and restored.

However, new research has found that how we perceive the quality of our sleep may be just as important as how much sleep we actually have. Neuroscience News reports that a recent study tracked the sleep of 100 participants, monitoring sleep patterns with wrist actigraphs and also asking them to keep a daily sleep diary.

The results showed that if the participants recorded a positive sleep experience in their diary, they also reported a more positive emotional state and improved life satisfaction the following day. This was regardless of the quality of sleep shown in the actigraphy data. Therefore how you feel about your sleep can be more important than how you actually slept.

The research was carried out by the University of Warwick’s Department of Psychology. Lead author Dr Anita Lenneis said: “Our results found that how young people evaluated their own sleep was consistently linked with how they felt about their well-being and life satisfaction.”

She added: “For example, when participants reported that they slept better than they normally did, they experienced more positive emotions and had a higher sense of life satisfaction the following day. However, the actigraphy-derived measure of sleep quality which is called sleep efficiency was not associated with next day’s well-being at all.”

“This suggests there is a difference between actigraphy-measured sleep efficiency and people’s own perception of their sleep quality in how they link to people’s evaluations of their well-being.”

The authors went on to note that there was a correlation between previous experiments that showed that people’s self-reported health was more important than their actual health conditions. Therefore our subjective opinions about how well we are really do make a difference to our happiness and quality of life.

This relates to other interesting previous studies into insomnia, which suggests that sometimes people misperceive their sleep. They may fall asleep more quickly than they think they have, and sleep for longer than they assumed. The study found that people with no sleep problems were more likely to accurately assess their sleep quality.

Therefore tackling our cognitive biases could be a key factor in unlocking the vicious cycle of insomnia. Cognitive biases are mental shortcuts that become established in the brain, and they can be useful to help us make quick decisions without having to filter a lot of new information. However, they can also trap us into fixed ideas and ways of thinking.

When it comes to our health, we may have become used to the idea that we are poor sleepers. This can influence our impression of how well we have slept, regardless of the actual quality of sleep. Sometimes, simply being aware that we may have a cognitive bias can be the first step to challenging it.

Some people may find that working with a therapist can help them to understand biassed thinking and learn how to see their problems from a different perspective.

If you are looking for anxiety therapy in Kensington, please get in touch today.

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