Exploring the relationship between sleep quality, emotional well-being and aggression levels in a European sample

Lara Freitag, Jane Ireland*, Elly Niesten

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose - Sleep deprivation is well known to negatively affect mood, cognition and behaviour. The purpose of this paper is to explore the relationship between sleep quantity, subjective sleep quality and aggression, hostility and well-being levels among adults in a non-clinical population.

Design/methodology/approach - In total, 201 participants aged 18 and above from Germany, UK and the Netherlands completed an online survey consisting of a Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index along with measures of psychological well-being, implicit and explicit aggression, and intent attributions.

Findings - Sleep disturbances were related to decreased levels of psychological well-being. Subjective poor sleep quality predicted increased hostile attributions. The overall sleep experience, however, was not associated with aggression levels. Nevertheless, both a poor sleep experience and low sleep quality were related to increased reactive aggression, but only in British participants.

Practical implications - The importance of perceived sleep quality rather than sleep quantity in predicting hostile and aggressive behaviours is indicated. The quality of sleep and perception of this quality should be the focus of clinical intervention to limit unwanted behavioural impacts. The importance of accounting for sleep quality perception in intervention that examines attributional biases such as hostility is indicated. Differences across countries should be identified and accommodated for in intervention.

Originality/value - This is the first study to consider a role for sleep quality (including perception) and sleep quantity in relation to aggression and hostility in a cross-country European sample.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-177
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Hostility and sleep
  • PSQI
  • Psychological well-being
  • Sleep and aggression
  • Sleep quality
  • Sleep quantity

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