People who are losing the ability to regulate their emotions may be more likely to suffer from insomnia. And if they do, that insomnia is more likely to become persistent.

Those are the conclusions of research published in a British Psychological Society journal by a team led by Markus Jansson-Fröjmark from Örebro University, Sweden.

Markus Jansson-Fröjmark says in a release: “These findings are important because, though the effect size is small, they suggest that teaching people strategies for regulating their emotions might help prevent new cases of insomnia to occur and decrease the risk of persistent insomnia.”

The researchers, whose work is published in the British Journal of Health Psychology, surveyed 2,333 adult members of the general public in Sweden. They were asked to complete a series of questionnaires on emotional regulation and a series on insomnia.

The questionnaires on emotional regulation asked about problems like difficulties with impulse control and lack of emotional awareness. Those on sleep problems asked about problems with falling asleep and with waking too early, and also about any difficulties these problems caused during the day. When the results were analyzed the researchers found there was no link between people’s ability to regulate their emotions and their experience of insomnia.

But a different picture emerged when follow-up questionnaires were returned six months later by 1,887 of the original participants and 18 months later by 1,795 of them. These results showed that participants whose ability to regulate their emotions had diminished since the original survey were more likely to have developed insomnia and that it was more likely to be persistent.

The researchers found that a reduced ability to regulate emotions was associated with an 11% increased risk of developing a new bout of insomnia or reporting persistent insomnia.