Just about everyone has heard the saying “Don’t go to sleep angry,” but how much truth is there behind this adage? Recent studies have shown that the sentiment is not merely an old wives’ tale.
The University of Massachusetts Amherst conducted studies that modeled exposure to negative stimuli that could make people sad or angry prior to sleep.
Patients in this study were aged between 18 and 30, consisting of 68 females and 38 males. The patients were shown a series of images and asked to rate them as happy or sad on a 1 to 9 scale, and their personal reaction as excited or calm on a 1 to 9 scale. Different groups then slept immediately after the priming or were allowed to remain awake. The next day, the patients were shown images and asked to repeat the same process of ranking.
In keeping with passed-down wisdom, sleeping immediately following a negative emotion “protects” that emotion, meaning their emotion didn’t change over time. These patients reacted just as negatively to traumatic or sad stimuli as they had the previous day. Conversely, patients who did not sleep immediately did not respond as negatively to the traumatic or sad stimuli.
There is also speculation if this is an evolutionary purpose for stress-related sleep troubles by decreasing negative reaction to trauma.
Although the researchers’ main focus is understanding Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, this phenomenon is not limited strictly to the psychologically damaged. So if you’re laying in bed, verging on insomnia while lamenting some new-found grievance, don’t fret. Pick up a book to kill some time and remember that it’s for the best.
ALEX STANTON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.