Spinning Your Wheels: Psychological Overinvolvement and Actigraphy-Assessed Sleep Efficiency Following Marital Separation

Karey L. O’Hara, Matthias R. Mehl, David A. Sbarra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: This study investigated the ways in which adults reflect on their psychological experiences amid a recent marital separation and how these patterns of thought, manifest in language, are associated with self-reported negative affect and actigraphy-assessed sleep disturbance. Methods: In a sample of 138 recently separated adults assessed three times over five months, we examined within- and between-person associations among psychological overinvolvement (operationalized using verbal immediacy derived as a function of the language participants used to discuss their relationship history and divorce experience), continued attachment to an ex-partner, negative affect, and sleep efficiency. Results: The association between psychological overinvolvement and negative affect operated at the within-person level, whereas the associations between psychological overinvolvement and sleep disturbance, as well as negative affect and sleep disturbance, operated at the between-person level. Conclusions: These findings shed light on the intraindividual processes that may explain why some people are more susceptible to poor outcomes after separation/divorce than others. Our findings suggest that individuals who express their divorce-related thoughts and feelings in a psychologically overinvolved manner may be at greatest risk for sleep disturbances after marital separation/divorce.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)307-319
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Actigraphy
  • Divorce
  • Marital separation
  • Negative affect
  • Psychological overinvolvement
  • Sleep efficiency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology


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