Dark Traits, Broken Sleep: How Machiavellianism and Psychopathy Impact Rest

Summary: A recent study delves into the link between the Dark Triad personality traits—Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and narcissism—and sleep quality, particularly in individuals with affective disorders (AD).

Using data from 657 people, the research reveals that Machiavellianism and psychopathy have a significantly negative impact on sleep quality. Interestingly, this detrimental effect was more pronounced in the healthy control group compared to those with AD.

The findings suggest that monitoring these traits could aid in the prevention and treatment of sleep issues related to AD.

Key Facts:

  1. The study found that of the Dark Triad traits, Machiavellianism and psychopathy were linked to poor sleep quality.
  2. This negative impact on sleep quality was more pronounced in individuals without affective disorders.
  3. These findings underline the importance of considering personality traits in the prevention and treatment of AD-related sleep issues.

Source: Neuroscience News

Sleep and mental health share an intricate relationship; poor sleep quality can both trigger and exacerbate affective disorders (AD), such as depression and anxiety. Yet, what drives this link is less understood.

A recent study reveals that personality traits—specifically, Dark Triad traits like Machiavellianism and psychopathy—can play a substantial role in this relationship, a fact that could transform how we approach AD treatment and prevention.

This shows a man sleeping.
The Dark Triad is a term in psychology that describes three closely related, yet independent, personality traits: narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Credit: Neuroscience News

The Dark Triad is a term in psychology that describes three closely related, yet independent, personality traits: narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. An inflated sense of self-importance characterizes narcissism, while Machiavellianism involves a focus on self-interest and manipulation. Psychopathy, on the other hand, is associated with reduced empathy and increased impulsivity.

Previous studies have reported that individuals with Dark Triad traits tend to experience more sleep problems and are more susceptible to AD. However, the extent to which these traits influence sleep quality, especially among those with AD, remains unexplored—until now.

The study, involving 657 individuals—267 healthy controls (HC) and 390 with AD—revealed that Machiavellianism and psychopathy negatively impacted sleep quality. The data, collected through an online survey, administered the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index to measure sleep quality, and the Short Dark Triad questionnaire to assess the Dark Triad traits.

After controlling for age and gender, the findings highlighted that Machiavellianism and psychopathy, but not narcissism, were significantly related to poor sleep.

Interestingly, the adverse effects of Machiavellianism and psychopathy on sleep were more prominent among the healthy control group. While it might seem paradoxical that those without AD suffered more in terms of sleep quality, the finding could point to a possible ‘floor effect’ for those with AD.

The sleep quality in individuals with AD might already be so compromised that the additional influence of Machiavellianism and psychopathy becomes less noticeable.

What do these findings mean for preventing and treating sleep issues related to affective disorders?

Firstly, they emphasize the importance of considering personality traits as an integral part of patient diagnosis and treatment planning. Psychoeducation—teaching individuals about their psychological issues—could be useful for those scoring high on Machiavellianism and psychopathy scales. By understanding these traits’ role in sleep quality, individuals could be more proactive in implementing sleep hygiene practices that counteract these influences.

Secondly, the research suggests that screening for these personality traits could be a useful preventative tool. Recognizing the presence of these traits early on could trigger interventions that might mitigate the future risk of developing affective disorders, especially through the mediation of sleep quality. This could be particularly useful for healthcare providers working in communities with limited or stigmatized mental health resources.

Thirdly, the study paves the way for further research to dissect the complex relationship between Dark Triad traits, sleep quality, and affective disorders.

Understanding the biological and psychological pathways through which these personality traits influence sleep could help create more targeted treatments for sleep problems. It would also be beneficial to explore the effects of interventions aimed at modifying these traits on sleep quality and overall mental health.

While the study provides groundbreaking insights, it’s worth noting that it has limitations.

The self-reporting nature of the study may introduce biases, and the cross-sectional design prevents the establishment of causal relationships.

Future studies would benefit from using longitudinal designs and possibly incorporating objective sleep measures, such as actigraphy, to provide a more comprehensive picture.

As the global burden of mental health issues continues to rise, uncovering factors that contribute to the onset and exacerbation of affective disorders is crucial.

Sleep quality, a key factor in mental health, has found a new variable in the equation—our personality traits. As we spend a third of our lives in sleep, understanding how our innate characteristics can influence this critical biological function might be the key to unlocking better mental health for many. And in this pursuit, it turns out that even our darker traits can shine a light on the path to understanding ourselves better.

About this sleep and personality disorder research news

Author: Neuroscience News Communications
Source: Neuroscience News
Contact: Neuroscience News Communications – Neuroscience News
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original Research: Open access.
“Machiavellianism and Psychopathy affect Sleep Quality in People with Affective Disorders and Mentally Healthy Individuals” by Andreas Baranyi et al. Frontiers in Psychology


Machiavellianism and Psychopathy affect Sleep Quality in People with Affective Disorders and Mentally Healthy Individuals

Deteriorated sleep quality is a predisposing factor and symptom of affective disorders (AD). It is important to investigate factors driving the relationship between sleep and AD, such as personality traits.

Previous research has shown that personality traits such as the Dark Triad personality traits (DT) narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy are associated with sleep problems and AD.

The current study examined the moderating influence of the DT in the relationship between AD (versus healthy controls (HC)) and sleep quality.

Data of 657 individuals (267 HC, 390 AD; 483 female, 166 male, 8 diverse; Mage = 34.87, SDage = 13.86) were collected in an online survey, which administered the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index and the Short Dark Triad questionnaire.

Moderation analyses controlling for age and gender revealed that Machiavellianism (b = -0.76, p < .05, R2 = .35) and psychopathy (b = -1.15, p < .05, R2 = .35), but not narcissism (b = -0.20, p = .620, R2 = .35), had a negative effect on sleep quality.

Specifically, this effect is more pronounced in the HC group, but sleep quality is generally worse in AD.

Our findings indicate that Machiavellianism and psychopathy should be considered in preventing and treating AD-associated sleep problems. Particularly, monitoring these traits could help to implement timely measures for the prevention of sleep problems, such as psychoeducation and sleep hygiene.

The results highlight the role of personality in the aetiopathogenesis of AD and require further differentiation to examine the underlying pathways between the DT, sleep, and AD.

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