Sleep May Worsen Traumatic Memories | PTSD | Sleep and Memory


Credit: University of Massachusetts Amherst

Sleep May Worsen Traumatic Memories | PTSD | Sleep and Memory

Taking a snooze shortly afterِ witnessing a traumatic event mayِ preserve, andِ even strengthen, theِ negative emotions tied toِ thatِ unpleasant memory, a newِ study suggests.
Researchers showed study participants a series ofِ images, someِ highly unpleasant, someِ neutral.
Participants whoِ slept shortly afterِ viewing theِ images wereِ moreِ likelyِ to rate themِ justِ asِ disturbing — ifِ not moreِ so — whenِ theyِ sawِ the images again, compared withِ participants whoِ stayed awake.

The study could have profound implications for preventing post-traumatic stress disorder, the researchers said.

From a clinical standpoint, insomnia followingِ trauma mightِ not necessarily beِ bad, saidِ study lead author Rebecca Spencer, a psychologist atِ the University ofِ Massachusetts Amherst.
It mayِ beِ the appropriate biological response andِ might helpِ you forget somethingِ traumatic.

Forgetting negative memories

Previous studies haveِ shown thatِ sleep helps lock inِ long-term memories, andِ some researchers haveِ proposed shut-eye alsoِ regulates ourِ emotional responses toِ events.
For theِ newِ study, Spencer andِ her colleagues recruited 106 volunteers ages 18 toِ 30 andِ showed themِ 30 negative andِ 30 neutral pictures.
The sleep group hadِ their firstِ session ofِ rating negative andِ neutral images atِ night andِ their secondِ session inِ the morning afterِ waking up; theyِ were alsoِ hooked upِ toِ a device toِ record howِ much time theyِ spent inِ the differentِ stages ofِ sleep.

Not so clear-cut

The researchers believeِ that sleep’s protection ofِ emotional responses mayِ haveِ evolutionary roots.
If somebodyِ orِ something attacks you, youِ wantِ toِ remember theِ emotions youِ felt soِ that youِ canِ avoid them, Spencer explained.
Should weِ haveِ people sleep orِ should weِ sleep deprive them.

Spencer is now looking to see what effects sleep may have on positive emotional memories.

Even thoughِ it’sِ still notِ clear ifِ sleep reduces orِ enhances theِ emotional tone ofِ a memory, Hamann notes thatِ the study didِ show thatِ sleep improves memory, evenِ for thoseِ memories thatِ aren’t emotionally charged.
‘It reinforces theِ idea thatِ sleep isِ generally beneficial, heِ said.

The study is published Jan. 18 in The Journal of Neuroscience.