Study finds out why a good night’s sleep can make us happier
The findings will offer new ideas to help those suffering from mental health problems.
By Alice Clifford via SWNS
A good night's sleep really can make us happier, reveals a new study.
While sleeping, the brain processes emotions, strengthening positive feelings and squashing negative ones.
Acute or chronic mental health issues that can be squashed during sleep include acute and chronic stress, anxiety, depression, panic, or even the inability to feel pleasure.
Researchers found that this process occurs during REM sleep, the time when people have the most intensely emotional dreams.
Excessive negative emotions such as fear and anxiety can drastically affect our mental health, leading to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders.
This study, published in the journal Science, shows how sleep is a vital method of improving mental health, as it dampens negative emotions and reinforces positive ones.
Nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
Professor Antoine Adamantidis, of the University of Bern in Switzerland, said: “Our goal was to understand the underlying mechanism and the functions of such a surprising phenomenon.”
The researchers used mice to reach their conclusion. To do this they exposed some to a sound that they associated with safety and others to one that they associated with danger.
They then recorded the brain activity of each mouse while they were awake and asleep to work out how emotional memories are transformed during REM sleep.
They found that two mechanisms work together to help process emotions. When the brain is awake it focuses on danger much more than the feeling of safety, but during REM sleep, the cells in the brain completely block out these emotions.
The researchers believe this coexistence of mechanisms keeps organisms, such mice and humans, stable.
Study first author Dr. Mattia Aime, a postdoctoral researcher studying sleep's role in learning and memory at the University of Bern, said: “This bi-directional mechanism is essential to optimize the discrimination between dangerous and safe signals.”
Without the ability to discriminate between these emotions, humans are more likely to experience excessive fear, which can lead to anxiety disorders.
The findings pave the way to a better understanding of how humans process emotions during sleep and give scientists new ideas on how to help those suffering from mental health problems such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorders.
Dr. Adamantidis added: "We hope that our findings will not only be of interest to the patients, but also to the broad public.”
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