When something upsetting happens, my 100-year-old grandmother always suggests that I might feel differently about it the next morning. It turns out that her folk logic could be totally in line with current science. A small new study from the Netherlands shows that “sleeping on it” is a scientifically sound strategy when you’re dealing with stress.
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. Continue reading.
Originally posted on Mic.
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