Scientists have discovered that a good night’s sleep can help patients deal with unpleasant or traumatic events, thanks to a link between dreams and memory.
Researchers at the University of California recruited 35 volunteers and split them into two groups. All the volunteers were shown 150 images designed to provoke an emotional reaction. One group was then allowed a good night’s sleep.
People with uninterrupted sleep are far better prepared for emotional events
The following day, all the volunteers were shown the images a second time inside an MRI scanner to map blood glow in the brain.
Those who had had slept properly had less activity in the amygdala, a part of the brain associated with heightened emotions, and more activity in the region linked to rational thinking.
In contrast, those who had no sleep responded with a far more emotional response to seeing the pictures again.
There is significant evidence that REM sleep, the sleep in which we dream, plays a role in processing recent memories.
Dr Matthew Walker, who led the study published in journal Current Biology, said: "We know that during REM sleep there is a sharp decrease in norepinephrine, a brain chemical associated with stress.
"By reprocessing previous emotional experiences in this neurochemically safe environment of low norepinephrine during REM sleep, we wake up the next day, and those experiences have been softened in their emotional strength.”
"We feel better about them, we feel we can cope."
Most people have to deal with traumatic events at some points in their lives, and for some these can produce post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Researchers believe that further investigation into dreaming and memories could help patients with PTSD.
If you are looking to be covered for conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder on your private medical insurance policy, make sure you choose a policy with full psychiatric cover- compare health insurance quotes online now.
© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2011