Study Identifies How Sleep Helps Our Brain to Process Emotions and Regulate Mental Health


Everyone needs a good night’s sleep, more so in the rapidly changing world where lifestyle changes are taking a toll on physical and mental health. It is well documented how an adequate amount of sleep can help us feel better and perform our daily chores efficiently. It makes us feel full of energy. But why does this happen? A new study may have an answer for this. It says that the brain triages emotions during dreaming to store the positive emotions and dampen the negative ones. More importantly, this study highlights the importance of sleep for mental health and paves way for new therapeutic pathways for a wide range of psychological disturbances.

With their study, the researchers at the University of Bern and Bern University Hospital have tried to understand how the brain places an order of urgency or treatment of emotions during dreaming. However, the researchers couldn’t figure out how intense emotions are reactivated during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. “Our goal was to understand the underlying mechanism and the functions of such a surprising phenomenon,” Professor Antoine Adamantidis, who headed the study, said in a statement.

According to the researchers, processing emotions is critical for the survival of animals. Excessively negative emotions can lead to pathological states like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) in humans. Citing data, they added that roughly 15 percent of the population in Europe is affected by persistent anxiety and severe mental illness.

This study provides an insights into how the brain helps to reinforce positive emotions and weaken strongly negative or traumatic emotions during REM sleep. Their findings, published in the journal Science, can open new ways to understand and address mental health issues, including PTSD. “We hope that our findings will not only be of interest to the patients, but also to the broad public,” added Prof Adamantidis.

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