Everyone needs a good night’s sleep, especially in a rapidly changing world where lifestyle changes are taking a toll on physical and mental health. How getting enough sleep helps us feel better and perform our daily household chores efficiently is well documented. It makes us feel energized. But why is this so? A new study may have the answer. It says the brain categorizes emotions while dreaming to store positive emotions and suppress negative ones. What’s more, this research underscores the importance of sleep for mental health and paves the way for new treatment avenues for a variety of mental disorders.
Through their study, researchers at the University of Bern and Bern University Hospital sought to understand how the brain issues emergency commands or processes emotions while dreaming. However, researchers could not figure out how strong emotions are reactivated during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. “Our goal was to understand the underlying mechanisms and functions of this surprising phenomenon,” Professor Antoine Adamantidis, who led the study, said in a statement.
According to the researchers, processing emotions is critical to the survival of animals. Excessive negative emotions can lead to pathological states such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in humans. They cite data adding that about 15% of Europe’s population is affected by persistent anxiety and severe mental illness.
This research provides insights into how the brain helps to strengthen positive emotions and weaken strong negative or traumatic emotions during REM sleep. Their findings, published in the journal Science, could open new avenues for understanding and addressing mental health issues, including PTSD. “We hope our findings will be of interest not only to patients, but also to the general public,” added Professor Adamantidis.