By Emily Murray
Once again, our parent’s advice we carelessly ignored is right on the mark.
It’s a phrase that most of us heard throughout our childhood, “never go to bed angry.” While there are a number of reasons that parents often suggest this, there is now scientific evidence to back it up. When we go to sleep with negative emotions fresh in our minds, it appears that the brain cements them further upon waking.
This was the conclusion recently published in The Journal of Neuroscience.
Scientists studied 106 men and women who participated in specific testing to see if there truly was any impact from going to bed angry, or after feeling any very strong emotion. In order to illicit these emotions in the participants, researchers showed them a variety of images that caused very strong emotional responses. Some were meant to cause a negative response (graphic images of an accident) and others either neutral or positive emotions. Then 12 hours later these participants were exposed to new images in addition to the previous ones either the morning after a full night’s sleep or after a full day awake. Additionally, when the participants slept, their REM (the portion of sleep were rapid eye movement occurs and dreams take place) sleep was monitored.
The conclusion of these brain activity scans revealed that emotions tended to dissolve slightly throughout the day while the participants were awake, however, those who slept after being in this heightened emotional state responded just as strongly when they saw the images the next day. Those who had been awake and saw the same images has a much more muted response.
A New York Times article on the issue also concluded that other studies have shown that perhaps the evolutionary reason that we tend to have trouble sleeping while we are upset is to actually protect our minds from having these feelings set deeply in our consciousness.
So now that we know there is real science backing up that age old wisdom, how can we deal with these feelings before going to bed?
Perhaps talking about these feelings before laying down for the night can help ease our minds and allow us to have restful sleep.