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Get REM Sleep; Manage Fear

A good night’s sleep may help you manage fear and risks better.

A study just posted in Journal of Neuroscience describes the importance of a good night’s sleep to controlling strong emotions, especially fear.

Previous studies in this area attempted to discover what happens in the brain after a frightful experience.  These prior studies, for example, show how Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects sleep. A team at the Rutgers University Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience, led by Itamar Lerner, has taken a different approach. They wanted to see if there is a relationship between adequate sleep and prevention or management of the brain’s reaction to subsequent stressful events.

Research Team

Lerner is a Postdoctoral Fellow in sleep research. Along with fellow researchers Neha Sinha-also doing Postdoctoral research-in her case in brain imaging, Shira Lupkin and Alan Tsai, they used new technology that allows mobile tracking of sleep habits over a period of time, not just one night in a sleep lab. This research was overseen by Dr. Martin Gluck, Professor of Neuroscience and Co-Director of the Memory Disorder Project at Rutgers- Newark.

Conclusion

The research team noted that individuals getting a full night’s rest, including adequate Rapid-Eye-Movement (REM) sleep, has a preventive effect in the face of what might otherwise be a fearful, risky or frightful experience. This seems to be done by modulating the connections among the amygdala, hippocampus and ventromedial prefrontal cortex- all of which are areas of the brain involved in memory formation, emotions, the “fight or flight” response (and much more).

A link to the research is here.

One More Reason

In previous posts, we’ve discussed the critical importance of a full, complete night’s sleep to brain health and peak mental performance at every age. This new research adds another reason to make sure that we develop good sleep habits.

Shameless plug: if you aren’t getting a restful night of sleep, perhaps a sleep mask might help. We offer a terrific one at the bargain price of $6.

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