Using emotion regulation strategies after sleep deprivation: ERP and behavioral findings

  • Jinxiao ZhangEmail author
  • Esther Yuet Ying Lau
  • Janet Hui-wen Hsiao


Sleep deprivation is suggested to impact emotion regulation, but few studies have directly examined it. This study investigated the influence of sleep deprivation on three commonly used emotion regulation strategies (distraction, reappraisal, suppression) in Gross’s (1998) process model of emotion regulation. Young healthy adults were randomly assigned to a sleep deprivation group (SD; n = 26, 13 males, age = 20.0 ± 1.7) or a sleep control group (SC; n = 25, 13 males, age = 20.2 ± 1.7). Following 24-h sleep deprivation or normal nighttime sleep, participants completed an emotion regulation task, in which they naturally viewed or applied a given emotion regulation strategy towards negative pictures, with electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings. A reduction in the centroparietal late positive potential (LPP) amplitudes towards negative pictures from the naturally viewing condition to a regulated condition was calculated as an index of regulatory effects. Comparisons between the two groups indicated that sleep deprivation significantly impaired the regulatory effects of distraction and reappraisal on LPP amplitudes. Suppression did not reduce LPP amplitudes in either group. In addition, habitual sleep quality moderated the effect of sleep deprivation on subjective perception of emotional stimuli, such that sleep deprivation only made good sleepers perceive negative pictures as more unpleasant and more arousing, but it had no significant effect on poor sleepers’ perception of negative pictures. Altogether, this study provides the first evidence that sleep deprivation may impair the effectiveness of applying adaptive emotion regulation strategies (distraction and reappraisal), creating potentially undesirable consequences to emotional well-being.


Sleep deprivation Emotion regulation Late positive potential Reappraisal Distraction Suppression 



This study was supported by a Seed Grant of HKU and the General Research Fund of RGC Hong Kong (#EdUHK 18611717). JZ’s graduate study was partially supported by RGC Hong Kong (ECS #HKU 758412H). The authors thank Angus Chan, Norman Chen, Rinky Lau, Olive Lim, Nancy Liu, and Andrew Yeung for their assistance in data collection. There are no conflict of interests to declare.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyThe University of Hong KongHong KongChina
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyThe Education University of Hong KongHong KongChina
  4. 4.Centre for Psychosocial HealthThe Education University of Hong KongHong KongChina

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