Mind & Body

Waking Up on the Wrong Side of the Bed Is Totally Real

You know that feeling when you get up and you're already in a bad mood? You just know that traffic is going to be awful, that your boss is going to give you a hassle, that all of your meetings are going to drag on way past their end times. And then — great news! None of that actually happens. So why are you still so grouchy?

First Things First (and for the Rest of the Day)

In a new study led by Jinshil Hyun, researchers found that a person's mood upon waking up in the morning made a major impact on the rest of their day. You see, human beings have a terrific ability to predict what's going happen over the course of the day, and that can be pretty useful when it comes to preparing for the worst. That might not be too surprising. The problem, said Hyun, is that ability to predict the worst "can also be harmful to your daily memory function, independent of whether the stressful events actually happen or not."

That's the real kicker. Sure, if you correctly intuit a bad day coming, you can get ready for it and make it easier on yourself. But if you incorrectly think a bad day is coming, your day is likely to go badly just because of that thought. That's what the researchers suspected, anyway, and they tested that hypothesis by recruiting 240 people to check in on an app every morning to report their mood. Specifically, they had to predict how stressful they expected their day to be, and then report five more times throughout the day on their current stress levels. Finally, before heading to bed at the end of the night, they had to report how stressful they thought the next day would be.

Bad Day Brain Drain

There was one other requirement the researchers asked of the participants. Throughout the day, they had to perform small tests of their working memory. And, surprise surprise, higher levels of stress correlated with poorer performance. What really stood out, though, was that anticipating stress in the early morning had an even greater effect on working memory than actual stress did. That's right — if you wake up feeling like everything will go terribly, your brain doesn't work as well throughout the day.

One factor that didn't have much effect on working memory was anticipation of stress the night before. That's something to take away for your future stress management: If you think that there might be something stressful in your near future, get ready for it the night before. That way, you get to wake up with a plan instead of anticipating a bad time over your morning coffee. According to research, it'll help you sleep better, too.

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You know what's an important part of waking up on the right side of the bed? Getting some good sleep to begin with. Pick up "Sleep Smarter" by Shawn Stevenson on audiobook (it's free with your trial membership to Audible), and make your nights more restful and successful. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Reuben Westmaas July 20, 2018

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