Ever heard the saying “never go to bed angry?” Science confirms that this is valid advice as not only is it difficult to fall asleep following a heated argument, going to bed when you’re feeling annoyed can preserve negative thoughts in your long-term memory. This makes it harder for you to get over these difficult situations than if you were to stay up throughout the entire period.
Our brains have the tendency to ponder over negative circumstances and worst-case scenarios at night – and all this worry is keeping us from getting good sleep. Whether you’re furious at your partner, have anxiety, or are stressed about not being able to fall asleep, negative emotions stimulate chemical reactions in the brain and physical changes that ramp up the body.
Understanding Anger and Sleeplessness
Since anger is triggered by external factors and by our own thoughts, we can think our way to a good night’s sleep.
In addition to identifying the cause of your anger and resolving issues with your partner, there are many ways you can calm your mind to help you drift off to sleep much faster – without the need for taking a sleeping pill.
Identify What’s Worrying you
Dismembering the source of your worry and anger is the most crucial step to eliminating negative emotions.
If you have anxiety, you may find it difficult to fall asleep as your mind is engrossed in other stressors. A lack of sleep can leave you feeling irritable, lethargic, and unrefreshed. This can cause even the smallest issues to annoy you even further, placing you in a vicious cycle.
Identify what’s causing you to feel angry before bedtime and deal with it before getting under the covers. It’s common to worry about things you usually don’t even think about as soon as you hit the bed. However, this doesn’t mean this is the best time to think things through.
Resolve Issues with Your Partner
The simplest solution to avoiding going to bed angry after a fight is to not bring up unfriendly issues during bedtime time in the first place. If you know an issue will escalate into a fight, it can wait until the next day, when you can approach it with a clearer mind. However, if it does come up anyway, consider agreeing to discuss it during the day so that both of you can sleep more soundly through the night.
You may feel that if you wait any longer and don’t talk about it now, you’ll never be able to resolve it. At this point, it helps to understand the difference between an issue and an emergency.
If an issue can’t wait till the next morning, it would have been resolved already. Bringing up a problem during the night will only jeopardize your sleep, leaving you feeling tired the next day and unable to address any issues productively.
Discuss a time to have a serious talk with your partner. This shows your commitment to solving the issue, resulting in a more positive response from your partner the next day.
Stop Panicking About Not Falling Asleep
Not being able to sleep can be mentally crippling. Individuals who face bedtime with dread, and stare at their clocks until they have to get up, begin developing negative emotions such as frustration, anger, anxiety, and fear, that they associate with trying to go to sleep.
Stimulus-control therapy can help discontinue these associations so that you link your bed to sleep – and not all the extra baggage that’s keeping you up at night. Doctors who recommend using this technique suggest approaches, such as not keeping a clock in your bedroom, keeping your phone on the dresser, and not lying in bed when you’re not able to sleep.
The Ohio Sleep Medicine Institute recommends that patients should not get frustrated when they have bad nights. Instead of stressing over how horrible your day is going to be due to your poor sleep and lack of rest, come to an understanding that your exhaustion may help you sleep better the next night.
If you do struggle to fall asleep, it’s okay to learn to accept it and find the next solution, instead of getting all worked up about it. After all, you’re in a quiet, comfortable place, where nobody is calling, emailing, or texting you, your children are fast asleep, and you don’t have a list of house chores to deal with. You have the whole night for yourself to relax in the dark with just your thoughts.
The reality is, most people fear not sleeping. However, this is irrational because everyone sleeps at some point. If not today, then tomorrow.
Distract Yourself with Positive Thoughts
You’re angry at something that happened during the day, and now your mind is in overdrive, preventing you from falling asleep. Understand that anger is energy, and energy will not help you drift off. Therefore, the best thing that you can do is to catch yourself in the act when you’re ruminating over negative thoughts and then distract yourself with positive and relaxing thoughts and images.
For example, instead of thinking about a recent interaction with your boss, you can think about your favorite vacation with your family – or plan one for the future. Come up with things you like to dream of. This can be spending an entire day at the beach in a hammock with a good book, or watching your kids play in the sand. Visualize multiple sensations, such as the sun’s warmth on your skin, the cool breeze, the smell of the ocean, the sound of the ocean waves, the saltiness of the sea, and so on.
Practice Deep Breathing
Like stress, anger stimulates your fight-or-flight response, leaving you feeling jittery, revved up, and wide awake. Stress causes your breathing to become shallower, thereby limiting the oxygen supply to your brain and other vital organs. To reduce the effects of anger and get a better night’s sleep, try performing a relaxation technique called diaphragmatic breathing.
A study published in Frontiers in Psychology that analyzed the effects of diaphragmatic breathing among 40 healthy participants from an IT company in Beijing, China, found that the practice may help improve cognitive performance and the physiological effects of stress in healthy adults.
Diaphragmatic breathing can be used when you’re mad at your husband and can’t sleep, or your brain is going at a mile per minute and is keeping you from drifting off. It can also be done at any time of the day, whether you’re at work or in bed. Most people enjoy doing this exercise lying down in a comfortable position.
To perform diaphragmatic breathing, breathe in slowly and deeply to a count of 4, and exhale slowly and gently to another count of 4. Notice your tummy rising as you breathe in and recoiling as you exhale.
Perform this exercise for as long as needed before going to bed and after getting up to help increase your positive energy and feeling of calmness. With practice, this exercise can help you calm down and avoid those annoying racing thoughts that keep you from falling asleep.
Go for a Late Walk
If you aren’t able to fall asleep after several minutes of trying, don’t force it. Instead, get up and consider a change in scenery by going for a short walk. You may have heard that exercise before bedtime can be counterproductive in helping you sleep, but a light walk can do just the opposite. Walking in the night is an excellent way to go over everything you’ve accomplished during the day – whether these include small victories of big ones.
Walking also keeps you from reaching for your nightcap or staring at your phone, which further interferes with your sleep patterns. In today’s high-velocity world, it can be easy to get caught up in stressful, negative thoughts, and emotions. You wish you had dealt with certain situations differently only when you’re about to go to sleep. By going for a walk, you’re freeing yourself from all that negative self-dialogue that’s severely impairing your mood, productivity, and sleep.
However, don’t just go for a walk for the sake of distraction. Use this as an opportunity to reflect on anything positive that happened during the day or the week so that you’re in a more grateful mood, not an angry one. Walking also boosts your creativity and problem-solving ability. This will help you visualize tomorrow’s victories much better and come up with ways to resolve any issues you may have with your partner, coworker, or family member in a more productive manner.
A light workout before bedtime can also increase levels of serotonin and dopamine in your body, helping you feel happier and more invigorated. This can help you envision positive results from an upcoming talk with your partner, or from your projects at work.
Rub Some Lavender
In general, essential oils come with a host of benefits, ranging from alleviating feelings of anxiety to even strengthening your immune system. In aromatherapy, essential oils are a powerful way of inducing sleep and relaxation. Lavender essential oil is a popular natural sleep aid.
A 2005 research published in the Journal of Biological and Medical Rhythm Research studied the effects of lavender essential oil on among 31 participants. Researchers found that lavender essential oil helped elevate the frequency of slow and deep wave sleep in the volunteers and all participants reported feeling high vigor upon waking the next morning.
Another excellent essential oil choice for promoting deep sleep is clary sage oil. According to a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, when clary sage oil was used in an essential oil diffuser, it helped participants undergoing urodynamic examination calm down much faster.
How to Use Essential Oils for Sleep
Essential oils can be used in many ways to promote sleep. One easy way to harness the power of essential oils to help you calm down and sleep is rubbing the oil to your wrists, palms, and the soles of your feet.
Before applying any essential oil to your skin, it’s important that you dilute it with a carrier oil, such as almond, olive, jojoba, or coconut oil. Using undiluted essential oils topically may cause skin irritation. As a rule of thumb, you’ll need one tablespoon of your choice of carrier oil for every drop of essential oil. While choosing carrier oils, be sure to pick something that doesn’t have a strong scent of its own that will mask the aroma of your essential oil.
Alternatively, you can add 2-3 drops of lavender, clary sage, or any other relaxing essential oil to your diffuser. This will release the relaxing aroma of the essential oil into your room. However, if you don’t want your diffuser to run through the night, you may also benefit from adding a few drops of lavender essential oil to your pillowcase before going to sleep. This will ensure that the scent lingers throughout the night while you sleep.
Avoid Drinking Before Bedtime
Anyone who consumes alcohol during the night knows that it can sometimes leave you feeling sleepy. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 20% of Americans use alcohol as a sleep aid. Therefore, you may feel like a couple of glasses of wine following a fight may help calm you, but it can leave you unsettled during your sleep.
Alcohol is a depressant, which can help you feel drowsy much faster, but it also leads to poor quality sleep later in the night as the body tries to process it. The following are some effects of alcohol that occur during your sleep:
Interferes with Your Sleep Patterns
Drinking alcohol before bed may increase your slow-wave sleep patterns, also called delta activity. Delta activity is a type of deep sleep that is responsible for learning and memory. However, at the same time, alcohol also turns on another type of brain pattern, called alpha activity. Alpha activity isn’t normally switched on during sleep, but it occurs when you’re relaxing quietly.
While this may sound good, delta, and alpha activity after drinking may interfere with restorative sleep. You won’t feel the effects of these changes in brain patterns during your sleep. However, any interruption in your sleep patterns can leave you feeling lethargic and irritable the next morning.
Affects Your Natural Circadian Rhythm
Your circadian rhythm, also known as your biological clock or sleep/wake cycle, is a natural, internal system that is designed to regulate feelings of wakefulness and sleepiness over a 24-hour period.
Drinking before bedtime can help you fall asleep quickly, but it can also lead to frequent awakenings throughout the night. Chances are you won’t remember waking up, but it can leave you feeling foggy and lethargic when you wake up.
Alcohol interferes with the production of melatonin and other chemicals responsible for stimulating sleepiness. These chemicals tend to subside after your body receives enough sleep.
However, drinking can cause them to curb much faster than they should. Alcohol triggers the production of adenosine, a sleep-enhancing chemical in the brain, which explains the rapid onset of sleep.
Unfortunately, because the chemical diminishes quickly, it can cause you to wake up before your body has received enough rest.
Use the Bathroom More often
In most cases, our biological clock is already designed to rest when it’s time to sleep, and not make frequent trips to the bathroom. This explains why we can go on for 6-8 hours without using the bathroom even once. The human body is evolutionarily designed to put the bladder into hibernation throughout the night.
However, since alcohol is a diuretic, it can increase your need to urinate more, interrupting your natural sleep pattern. These frequent awakenings throughout the night reduce the effects of refreshing, restorative sleep, leaving you feeling sluggish and craving for more sleep when you wake up in the morning.
Inhibits REM Sleep
Another cause for getting poor sleep following a night of drinking is that alcohol inhibits your REM sleep. REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is considered the most restorative part of your sleep. Lack of REM sleep is linked to reduced creativity, focus, and problem-solving skills, as well as increased feelings of exhaustion and mental fog during the day.
Worsens Breathing Problems
If you have a snoring issue or sleep apnea, alcohol can make things worse. Alcohol causes the entire body to relax, which includes the muscles in your throat. This allows the throat muscles and tongue to collapse in your sleep, thus aggravating your snoring and sleep apnea.
Avoid Reaching for a Snack
When you’re feeling angry, you may want to reach for a sugary snack, but this can backfire in many ways. In most cases, anger or any negative emotion can cause you to make unhealthy food choices. Nobody ever reaches for a salad when they’re mad – on the contrary, they opt for high-fat, high-sugar, and refined-carb loaded foods that help comfort them.
Anger prompts your fight-or-flight response, which makes your body feel that it’s in danger. This causes the body to enter emergency mode, where your digestive tract takes a backseat and doesn’t function normally. Therefore, not only will your poor food choices before bedtime contribute to weight gain, but it may also lead to acid reflux, diarrhea, or constipation that will leave you feeling uncomfortable throughout the night. Here’s some advice on dealing with acid reflux while you sleep.
Your best option, distract yourself by going for a walk or reaching for a book you genuinely enjoy. After 20 minutes, if you still feel hungry, go for a light, healthy snack such as a handful of blueberries or baby carrots.
If you can’t sleep after a fight with your partner, getting anger off your chest may sound like an effective plan, but it can make the situation worse. According to a study published in the journal, Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, people who spend five minutes reading another person’s online rants became less happy and angrier, indicating that it doesn’t help anyone when you vent.
Venting with aggressive action, such as punching a pillow isn’t going to work either. Not only such actions increase your anger during that moment, but they also increase the likelihood of you behaving aggressively in the future as well. By venting, one feels validated in what they’re saying, which doesn’t do your mood any favors.
The same applies to heated emails or social media posts. You cannot take back a rant after you’ve delivered it to the internet. If you cannot resist writing down your thoughts, consider jotting them down in a Word document.
However, something more productive would be to write positive thoughts in a journal, such as things you’re grateful for, and actions you would have performed differently. Journal writing can help you put things into perspective and can leave you feeling a lot calmer.
Why You Should Never Go to Bed Angry
Whether you have to write down your thoughts, leave your house for 20 minutes for a relaxing walk outside, or put down your nightcap – it always helps to resolve any issues you have with yourself or your partner before going to bed.
Continuing your argument beyond your bedtime does not only worsen your stress, but it also reduces your chances of getting a good night’s sleep that will help you feel well-rested and ready to tackle your problems during the day. More importantly, going to bed angry also increases your chances of holding on to grudges in the long-term.
Scientific Proof That Anger Keeps You Awake
While we sleep, our brains organize our experiences, placing them in our short-term and long-term memory. A study published in the journal, Nature Communications, with 73 English male students conducted an exercise called “think/no-think.”
The experiment involved showing a picture of a person’s face with a neutral expression before participants went to sleep. Each face was then linked to an upsetting or negative image, such as crying children, dead bodies, and so on.
The participants were first asked to link these faces with these negative images and then were given the same images again, asking to forget the previous negative linkage. Before going to sleep, their brain activity showed that they were 9% less likely to remember the negative images when compared with the neutral faces.
However, when the test was performed again, this time after a complete night’s sleep, their brain activity showed that they were only 3% less likely to remember the disturbing images. This indicates that sleep makes it easier to remember negative thoughts.
When it comes to relationships, this means taking an argument to sleep, as this makes it more likely for your brain to place this negative experience in your long-term memory during your slumber.
This will cause the fight to hold a lasting memory in you, thus increasing the chances of you bringing it up during your next fight. It’s much more comfortable and healthier, for your body and relationship, to move past an argument before hitting the bed.