Researching Ways to Get More Zzzzz

With the end of daylight saving happening on Sunday, November 3, sleep is back in the spotlight. Hope’s Dr. Andrew Gall, assistant professor of psychology, has a number of things he can say about that topic.

Dr. Andrew Gall

Gall is a behavioral neuroscientist who focuses his research on understanding the neural mechanisms and functions of sleep and circadian rhythms. He has had two recent studies about sleep quality published in peer-reviewed journals.

In 2018, Gall and a team of student researchers studied how dim light, a winter malady, is capable of disrupting the expression of circadian rhythms. Specifically, dim light causes a shift in behavioral patterns, such that it is more difficult to be awake during the day and can lead to more wakefulness at night. In the Journal of Comparative Psychology, Gall wrote that Nile grass rats — a day-active species — became more night-active when they were presented with dim light during the day. This has implications for us living in West Michigan, where about 70 percent of the days in the winter are cloudy, thus resulting in dim light. In fact, across the country, humans are exposed to less light in the winter, which can result in Seasonal Affective Disorder, depression, and mood swings.

Dr. Alyssa Cheadle

This year, Gall and Hope colleague Dr. Alyssa Cheadle, working with Dr. Loren Toussaint of Luther College, researched how forgiveness of self and others plays a role in sleep quantity and quality. Their findings were recently published in Psychology and Health. Surveying 1,423 American adults regarding how likely they would be to forgive themselves or others due an episode of hurt or harm, as well as asking how well they had slept in the past 30 days, the research team found that respondents who were more forgiving usually slept longer and better. As a result, they had better physical health and were happier with life.

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