The Cycle of Daily Stress and Sleep: Sleep Measurement Matters

Danica C. Slavish, Justin Asbee, Kirti Veeramachaneni, Brett A. Messman, Bella Scott, Nancy L. Sin, Daniel J. Taylor, Jessica R. Dietch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Background:Disturbed sleep can be a cause and a consequence of elevated stress. Yet intensive longitudinal studies have revealed that sleep assessed via diaries and actigraphy is inconsistently associated with daily stress. Purpose:We expanded this research by examining daily associations between sleep and stress using a threefold approach to assess sleep: sleep diaries, actigraphy, and ambulatory single-channel electroencephalography (EEG). Methods:Participants were 80 adults (mean age = 32.65 years, 63% female) who completed 7 days of stressor and sleep assessments. Multilevel models were used to examine bidirectional associations between occurrence and severity of daily stress with diary-, actigraphy-, and EEG-determined sleep parameters (e.g., total sleep time [TST], sleep efficiency, and sleep onset latency, and wake after sleep onset [WASO]). Results:Participants reported at least one stressor 37% of days. Days with a stressor were associated with a 14.4-min reduction in actigraphy-determined TST (β = -0.24, p = 0.030), but not with other actigraphy, diary, or EEG sleep measures. Nights with greater sleep diary-determined WASO were associated with greater next-day stressor severity (β = 0.01, p = 0.026); no other diary, actigraphy, or EEG sleep measures were associated with next-day stressor occurrence or severity. Conclusions:Daily stress and sleep disturbances occurred in a bidirectional fashion, though specific results varied by sleep measurement technique and sleep parameter. Together, our results highlight that the type of sleep measurement matters for examining associations with daily stress. We urge future researchers to treat sleep diaries, actigraphy, and EEG as complementary - not redundant - sleep measurement approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)413-423
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2021


  • Actigraphy
  • Electroencephalography
  • Longitudinal
  • Repeated measures
  • Sleep diary
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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