The brain strengthens bad memories as we sleep
Many studies have proven that negative emotions affect sleep. As we recently reported, going to bed angry makes it harder to relax into sleep and can affect overall health and wellbeing.
Now, a new study has found that going to bed angry or dwelling on negative memories will make it easier to recall and linger on those experiences later on.
The brain, as it turns out, is programmed to dwell on negative memories and strengthens them while we sleep. Emotions are also a prominent factor in how we recall memories, the stronger the emotion, the better our ability to remember the experience.
The study was conducted by researchers from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre in Boston. For the study, the researchers had 57 participants view a series of images in each eye.
The images were either upsetting or neutral, and the research team was able to visually track the different parts of the brain that processed each image. After that, half of the participants went to sleep and the other stayed awake.
Twelve hours later, researchers asked the participants to remember the images. Those who had gone to sleep were able to remember a higher number of negative images than those who stayed awake.
The results show that going to bed after experiencing something emotionally upsetting will only strengthen that memory and our ability to recall it later on.
“This would provide an explanation of how sleep selectively stabilizes emotional memories,” Roy Cox, the study’s lead author, told the Times.
A previous 2015 study, which also showed similar results, focused on how emotions play an essential role in memory recall. Strong emotions can make both negative and positive memories more vivid.
Going to sleep angry or dwelling on something embarrassing or upsetting that happened that day isn’t just bad for your sleep, it also means that you will be able to clearly recall that event in the future