Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Orcutt, Holly K.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


The explanatory mechanisms by which sleep disturbances promote psychopathology are not well understood. Given that poor sleep promotes a broad range of negative emotions the next day, sleep disturbances may increase the tendency to identify inner experiences as aversive, thereby promoting experiential avoidance (EA). Though temporarily effective, the frequent and rigid use of EA has been shown to worsen mental health. Therefore, using a seven-day ecological momentary assessment design, this study investigated momentary EA as a mechanism linking subjective sleep quality and quantity with subsequent anxiety and depressive symptoms. Undergraduate participants (N = 86, Mage = 19.72) first completed an in-person battery of questionnaires on global EA and mental health symptoms to be used as covariates. Then, participants downloaded a mobile app on their cellphones and completed the rest of the study outside of the laboratory over the next week. Each day, participants completed a sleep diary upon waking and then three subsequent quasi-random momentary assessments of EA and anxiety and depressive symptoms. Multilevel modeling showed that lower sleep efficiency (SE) and longer sleep onset latency (SOL) were the only facets of sleep that predicted an increase in momentary EA the next day. Surprisingly, no sleep parameters were directly related to next-day momentary mental health. However, post-hoc analyses showed SE and SOL were indirectly related to more severe momentary anxiety and depressive symptoms through increases in momentary EA. Findings suggest EA as one link that connects sleep disturbances with mental health symptoms. Given that avoidance reduction is a key component of exposure therapy, improving patients’ SE and SOL prior to treatment may mitigate reliance on avoidance while working to confront feared stimuli. Ultimately, this might increase the chances of successful, efficient treatment, while possibly decreasing the likelihood of dropout and relapse.


123 pages




Northern Illinois University

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