The old anecdotal saying that you should never go to sleep angry just got backed up by science, thanks to UMass Amherst neuroscientists. Their study concludes that if you have a negative emotional response — their examples were for viewing an unsettling picture or experiencing a traumatic event — the response is reduced if you stay awake afterwards. If you go to sleep immediately, the response is “protected”, meaning that when you are exposed to the effect again, your negative response will be just as negative as the first time.
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The scientists pointed to PTSD sufferers, or witnesses to accidents as examples of how their conclusion is applicable in practical terms. If a witness to a gruesome accident remains awake after the event, the next time they see a reproduction or photograph of the scene, their emotional response will be much lower than if they had slept right after. Researchers even said that their brains are actually averse to going to sleep, as a defence mechanism.
Just because you’re a unlikely to witness a horrific accident doesn’t mean these findings can’t be applied to your life. Any negative emotion, like an argument with a spouse or a disagreement at work, can cause negative emotions. The study points to the practice that you should try to resolve these feelings before you go to sleep so that you can have a less visceral reaction to the problem in the morning.
Sleep preserves and enhances unpleasant emotional memories [Medical Xpress]