Sleep on “IT”

Not that long ago sleep was thought to be for the body.  Research now indicates that sleep is more for the brain – the consolidation of memory,  pruning, reorganizing, regenerating all that goes on between the ears.
How can sleep not be important since we humans spend almost half of our lives sleeping?  
Now some studies indicate that sleep is different depending on where one falls on the depression-anxiety spectrum.  By influencing how memories are processed, sleep can also change the power of a memory itself.*
This has huge implications for treatment of Post traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):

One study suggests that sleeping within 24 hours of a traumatic experience will make those memories less distressing

“Sleep researchers are also looking at the potential of certain facets of sleep to treat post traumatic stress disorder. One study suggests that sleeping within 24 hours of a traumatic experience will make those memories less distressing in the subsequent days. For people with anxiety, sleep therapy might help with reminding people that they’ve eliminated their fear.”

Nap w:EEG

Sleep Lab by Peggy

But while people with typical cognitive patterns need sleep to recover from intense experiences, it may be different for those with depression.

“Wake therapy, where people are deliberately deprived of sleep, is spreading as a method of treating depression. It doesn’t work in all cases. But it may be that it jolts the circadian system, which is prone to sluggishness in people with depression.”

“Sleeplessness in some cases may have a protective effect.  Often following intense trauma, “the natural biological response in those conditions is that we have insomnia”. This may be an appropriate response to an unusual situation.”

So sometimes it can actually be a good thing that REM sleep deprivation harms the brain’s ability to consolidate emotional memories. “There’s good evidence that people who have longer REM sleep tend to be more depressed,” 

“Why does sleeplessness help the emotional state of some people with depression and trauma, but not others? New work by suggests that the difference may come down to genetics. A particular gene, called the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) gene, appears key to memory consolidation during sleep.”

“People with a specific gene mutation are vulnerable to the frequent, unhelpful circling of negative memories during sleep – for them, it could be helpful to go to sleep early and get up very early.”

And the new research suggests that people who have a specific mutation of the BDNF gene are vulnerable to the frequent, unhelpful circling of negative memories during sleep. For them, it could be helpful to go to sleep early and get up very early to minimise the amount of REM sleep.

*Elaina Bollinger, specialises in emotion and sleep at the University of Tuebingen.

Rebecca Spencer a neuroscientist, University of Massachusetts Amherst

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20181009-how-sleep-helps-with-emotional-recovery-and-trauma

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Sleeping after a traumatic event might lock in bad memories and emotions

Before I was licensed I was the director of a Rape Trauma program and initially trained in what was called “Immersion Therapy” – Trauma survivors were suppose to tell and retell and retell their trauma experience until the trauma had “lost” it’s emotional impact.  After only a few sessions, watching clients get worse,  I knew there needed to be a better way so I studied alternate treatments that did not re-tramautize people. 

This experience was invaluable to both me professionally and the people who came to see me during my psychotherapy career.  I  successfully treated people with all manners of traumatic experiences from being in airplane crashes to buried alive.  Although I’m no longer in practice, trauma research still interests me.

Reading this study about how it might be better NOT to sleep after a traumatic event got my attention.  (jw)

Sleeping after a traumatic event might lock in bad memories and emotions.

“Researchers from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst asked more than 100 healthy adults to rate their emotional responses to a series of images, some depicting unsettling scenes. Twelve hours later, they rated the images again. The difference: Half of the subjects slept during the break; the other half did not.”

“Not only did sleep protect the memory, but it also protected the emotional reaction,” said Rebecca Spencer, a neuroscientist at UMass Amherst and co-author of the study that was published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
Study subjects who stayed awake for 12 hours had a weaker emotional response to the unsettling images the second time around, suggesting sleep serves to preserve and even amplify negative emotions. Their memories were also weaker than those of their well-rested counterparts, as they struggled to remember whether they had seen the images before.

“It’s true that ‘sleeping on it’ is usually a good thing to do,” said Spencer, citing evidence that sleep boosts memory and other cognitive functions. “It’s just when something truly traumatic or out of the ordinary happens that you might want to stay awake.”

Spencer said people often find it difficult to sleep after a traumatic event.
“This study suggests the biological response we have after trauma might actually be a healthy, she said. “Perhaps letting people go through a period of insomnia before feeding them sleeping meds is actually beneficial.”
While the findings may have implications for post traumatic stress disorder, Spencer emphasized that daily emotional ups and downs are not grounds for sleep deprivation.”

Just because we have a bad day doesn’t mean we should stay awake,” she said. “We need to maintain some memories and emotional context to know what to avoid. We do learn something from them.”

Although sleep gives the body some much-needed rest, the brain stays active. Spencer used polysomnography to monitor brain activity in some sleeping subjects.
“REM sleep in particular was associated with a change in how emotional you found something,” she said. “We think there are parts of the brain being activated during sleep that allow us to process those emotions more than during day.”

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the UMass Amherst Commonwealth Honors College.