Sleep loss and emotion: A systematic review and meta-analysis of over fifty years of experimental research

Cara A. Palmer, Joanne L. Bower, Kit W. Cho, Michelle A. Clementi, Simon Lau, Benjamin Oosterhoff, Candice A. Alfano

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In a largely sleep-deprived society, quantifying the effects of sleep loss on emotion is critical for promoting psychological health. This preregistered systematic review and meta-analysis quantified the effects of various forms of sleep loss on multiple aspects of emotional experiences. Eligible studies used experimental reductions of sleep via total sleep deprivation, partial sleep restriction, or sleep fragmentation in healthy populations to examine effects on positive affect, negative affect, general mood disturbances, emotional reactivity, anxiety symptoms, and/or depressive symptoms. In total, 1338 effect sizes across 154 studies were included (N = 5,717; participant age range = 7-79 years). Random effects models were conducted, and all forms of sleep loss resulted in reduced positive affect (SMD = -0.27 to -1.14), increased anxiety symptoms (SMD = 0.57 to 0.63), and blunted arousal in response to emotional stimuli (SMD = -0.20 to -0.53). Findings for negative affect, reports of emotional valence in response to emotional stimuli, and depressive symptoms were mixed and depended on the type of sleep loss. Non-linear effects for the amount of sleep loss as well as differences based on the stage of sleep restricted (i.e., rapid eye movement sleep or slow wave sleep) were also detected. This study represents the most comprehensive quantitative synthesis of experimental sleep and emotion research to date, and provides strong evidence that periods of extended wakefulness, shortened sleep duration, and/or nighttime awakenings adversely influence human emotional functioning. Findings provide an integrative foundation for future research on sleep and emotion and elucidate the precise ways that inadequate sleep may impact our daytime emotional lives.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Bulletin
Publication statusPublished - 21 Dec 2023


  • Emotion
  • Mood
  • Mental Health
  • Sleep
  • Meta-Analysis
  • sleep
  • emotion
  • mood
  • mental health
  • meta-analysis

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