herald

Friday 17 November 2017

Worried? Sleeping on it will not help

Sleeping on a problem could become a nightmare making the situation much worse instead of better.

Painful memories can become more vivid and upsetting if you sleep immediately after a traumatic or emotional event.

Instead you should stay awake and "digest" the difficulties in order to get a peaceful night's rest.

Despite previous research papers that have claimed sleep helps take the edge off negative emotions to allow a rational perspective, new evidence suggests otherwise.

Dr Rebecca Spencer, who led the latest study says: "We found that if you see something disturbing, let's say an accident scene, and then you have a flashback or you're asked to look at a picture of the same scene later, your emotional response is greatly reduced. You'll find the scene far less upsetting if you stayed awake after the original event than if you slept."

She said the findings could hold significance for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or for witness evidence in court.

The researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst showed 106 young adults a series of pictures, some of which were deliberately upsetting, and rated their emotional response.

After a 12 hour gap they were shown another set of pictures -- some of which were the same. Their emotions were evaluated again.

Those who slept between viewings were better at recognising the images and they also had stronger negative feelings towards the pictures.

csheehy@herald.ie

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