Our elders always suggest we never sleep angry. Many of us think it is just bullshit. You might think that staying up after a fight proves that you care about your relationship. Thus, you started thinking about fixing what is wrong. Sleeping angry not only impacts the next day, but it also causes cumulative and harmful effects. Even scientists now have evidence over it.
They have found that sleeping angry actually combines bad memories, making you live with them longer. The study was conducted by scientists from the Beijing Normal University in China.
Healthy sleep is essential for optimal learning and memory function. Sleep combines our memories. It plays an essential role in how we process and store useful information. But according to a new study, the same principle can also cause negative thoughts. If we sleep with them, they can be hard to forget in the long term.
Yunzhe Liu and his colleagues involved 73 volunteers in the study. All volunteers were male college students.
Additionally, scientists trained the participants to associate images of neutral faces with disturbing images of things—for example, injured people, mutilated bodies, and crying children. Scientists actually wanted to discover how sleeping impact the process. So, they tested how well volunteers can skip the negative memories.
On the next day, scientists showed neutral faces to volunteers. Later they ask volunteers to remind negative thoughts and how they ignored them. For that purpose, they used a psychological technique called think/no-think. In this technique, participants are instructed to think or not to think about the targetted item.
When participants were asked to think, they actively try to recall it. For example, They remind about the associations learned between the faces and the negative imagery. Similarly, when participants were asked not to think, they consciously try to avoid thinking of it. According to researchers, this task can actually help people to forget things they have learned.
During the recalling process, scientists used brain scans and FMRI techniques to check why this is happening. When the participants tried to remember or inhibit the memories, their neural activity was clicked in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that primarily associates with memory.
During the next cycle, scientists conducted a think/no-think session after just half-hour. This time, they wanted to see if rectifying the bad memories early could help the participants forget.
After analyzing and comparing both the cycle, scientists found that the suppression efforts after half-hour are better than 24 hours. Scientists suggest a night’s sleep help to consolidate the negative memories. It makes them hard to inhibit later intentionally.
Liu said, “Overnight consolidation makes the aversive memory more resistant to suppression by promoting hippocampal-neocortical reorganization of the memory.“
“That means, if you want to forget about something unpleasant or angry moment, it may be better to try to resolve how you feel about it or move past it before you go to bed, as those memories could spread deeper and wider in your brain if you don’t.“
According to researchers, the research could help develop new kinds of reconsolidation techniques. Thus, old memories get modified through psychological interventions and might spur research into other treatments too. It even could help researchers to develop better treatments for conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder.
Liu advised, “Try to get a bad memory out of their minds as soon as they can. Do not think about it too much, and especially not to sleep on it.“
- Liu, Y., Lin, W., Liu, C. et al. Memory consolidation reconfigures neural pathways involved in the suppression of emotional memories. Nat Commun 7, 13375 (2016). DOI: 10.1038/ncomms13375