Science of Success

Think you can get by on less than 5 hours of sleep tonight? Here's why you can't

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Irritated? Frustrated? Close to losing your temper? You might not be getting the sleep you need. A new study finds that losing even just two hours of sleep a night can make you less able to cope with frustrating situations. It might even intensify negative feelings like anger.

While sleep deprivation's impact on anxiety and sadness is well established, the new study, recently published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, claims to be one of the first to show that the sleep deprived are more prone to anger.

In the study, 142 participants were divided into two groups. Around half of those in the first group kept their normal sleep routine, getting nearly seven hours of sleep a night, while those in the remaining half shortened their rest, getting only about four-and-a-half hours of sleep each night, mimicking the sleep loss many people experience in normal daily life.

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Participants were asked to perform a task — rating products — while in an uncomfortable situation. Participants were forced to perform the task while listening to either "brown noise" (such as the sound of spraying water) or "white noise" (such as the sound of a static signal). As expected, those who lost sleep reacted more angrily as a result, explained Zlatan Krizan, a professor of psychology at Iowa State.

While most people adapt to uncomfortable situations, like the sound of a barking dog, the sleep deprived are less able to cope. According to Krizan, they become more angry during frustrating conditions and are less able to adjust.

Krizan tells CNBC Make It that he hopes people understand that even moderate doses of sleep loss disrupt your ability to function emotionally.

Future studies could examine the way lack of sleep affects other areas of daily life such as having discussions about marriage or politics, Krizan says.

Knowing how sleep impacts emotions can help you better understand other people's reactions. Additionally, taking note of your own fatigue can help you work more productively within a team.

Ultimately, understanding sleep deprivation helps us understand difficult situations, Krizan says, and what might be "driving our distress."

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