Sleep ''helps preserve'' painful memories
Going to bed on a problem might not be as beneficial as you think, a new study has found.
Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst claim that unpleasant experiences tend to stay with us for longer if we sleep on them.
Previous studies had suggested that resting on a problem helps it to be viewed from a more rational perspective, which the team seemingly disagree with.
Study lead author Dr Rebecca Spencer said: "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."
She emphasised that the event becomes less upsetting if the person had stayed awake, compared to if they had decided to go to bed.
The team argued that this theory makes evolutionary sense, as our ancestors would have survived in the past by holding on to vivid memories of life-threatening situations.
This would help them avoid such incidents in the future, therefore increasing their chances of survival.
During the experiment, 106 men and women were asked to look at a series of images on a computer, including negative scenes such as car crashes, before rating their emotional response.
Half of the group looked at the pictures in the evening and then the following morning after a period of rest.
The other half saw them for the first time in the morning and again later that day without having slept.
Individuals who had slept found the pictures just as upsetting - if not more so - than the first time they had viewed them, whereas the others didn't.
Dr Spencer commented: "What we've shown is that sleep not only protects our memory but also seems to preserve the emotional response we had during that event, and that's never been shown before."
Posted by Elizabeth Mewes