Sleep on it. This is advice given to us since we can remember. We are told ‘sleep on it’ for decisions and stress and for many of us it has always seemed like good advice. Even if you’re sometimes too stressed to sleep.
A new small study out of the Netherlands suggests there’s science to grandma’s time honoured advice. Mostly thanks to the function of REM sleep.
“The study’s researchers put participants in an MRI machine and exposed them to a smell that they found upsetting. (The findings don’t specify what the smells were, but I’m so curious. Poop? Toxic waste?) Scientists saw that the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for processing emotions, was activated by the presence of the odor. Participants then slept a full REM sleep cycle. REM is the sleep phase in which the brain is most active — that quality sleep often produces vivid dreams, many of which you can actually remember.
When the people in the study were exposed to the smells again, the amygdala remained inactive, meaning they no longer had as much of an emotional response to the odors. It wasn’t that the participants had gotten used to the smell, it was that their brains had processed the emotions they associated with the smell and no longer found it as upsetting. This means that these people re-wired their negative emotional responses overnight I asked some sleep experts to explain how this works.”
Essentially REM sleep is considered to be how our brains process memories and information, and after processing we are better able to cope. So take a listen to the podcast and get dreaming! 🙂