Dreaming Helps Process Your Daily Emotions

Getting enough sleep makes us feel better. Everyone knows this. But a team of sleep researchers at UC Berkeley has proof. According to a recently completed study of 35 young adults, REM sleep, that period of sleep characterized by rapid eye movement and vivid dreaming, not only shuts down certain chemical processes associated with ongoing stress but also actively helps us process the emotional experiences of the day.

Accounting for about 20 percent of our sleeping time, REM sleep is not fully understood but has been implicated in the formation of memories and mood regulation. It is accompanied by a sharp decline in norepinephrine neurotransmitters, major stress-causing chemicals in the brain, and decreased activity in the amygdala, the area of the brain responsible for assigning an emotional weight to experiences.

The study's authors hypothesize that the active review of past experiences during dreaming sleep, in combination with the "decoupling" of the emotional centers of the brain, allow individuals to integrate memories and experiences free from potentially stress-inducing emotional reactions. Dreams offer, in a sense, a safe place in which to examine the goings-on of our lives.

Findings from the UC Berkeley study are consistent with observations of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and those with other established sleep disorders. In these patients, the safe, emotionally-blunted realm of dreams is inaccessible. Sleep becomes fraught with nightmares, and a person is unable to comfortably face the past. This lack of integration carries on into waking life, where the person becomes increasingly incapable of properly handling experiences.

The UC Berkeley team hopes that an improved understanding of the role of dreams and REM sleep in emotional integration will be able to help both those with sleep disorders and those with stress-related issues. The mind, they say, is equipped with mechanisms to protect and heal itself, if we can just find a way to tap into them.

Source: The University of California, Berkeley
Photo: Pixabay

Anxiety Support Groups

More Articles

There are significant differences between men and women when it comes to the frequency of certain anxiety and mood disorders. For example, women...

Panic is real, and panic disorder is considered to be an illness. A panic attack is very painful and feelings of depression and helplessness may...

Inderal, a beta-blocker commonly prescribed to control physical symptoms of anxiety, is generally considered to be a safe drug and is tolerated...

Stress and anxiety are largely a result of mental or emotional distress, causing feelings such as apprehension, fear, frustration, and anger....

Here is a simple relaxation exercise you can do while riding the bus or train to work, taking a break at work or school, sitting with your morning...

More Articles

The term chronic stress disorder is often used to describe the psychological condition known as complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). C...

According to research published in the journal Science, the drug ketamine can repair brain cell connections that have been disrupted by depression...

I subscribe to the Psychotherapy Networker e-newsletter and just read a great article by Nancy Errebo, Psy. D., about using EMDR with a returning...

The phrase “natural remedy” means different things to different people, but people searching for natural remedies for anxiety attacks are usually...

A literature review will be presented to the 20th European Congress of Psychiatry this week by a team from the Mayo Clinic. The group will...

Serotonin is the neurotransmitter most linked to mood disorders like depression, but scientific evidence showing the role it plays is surprisingly...

Should I try an herbal remedy for anxiety?

People are interested in herbal remedies for anxiety for a variety of reasons--some of the...

The antidepressant doxepin (originally marketed by Pfizer under the brand name Sinequan) is a tricyclic antidepressant approved to treat anxiety...

Children with social phobias are more likely to be judged as less attractive by their peers than those without anxiety disorders, according to a...

During the winter months, when it’s always raining, my yellow Labrador has fairly constant anxiety. The sound of thunder breaking outside is...

Stressful life events are difficult for everyone, but they can be especially hard on those who already have an anxiety disorder. A recent study...

Librium, known generically as chlordiazepoxide, is a benzodiazepine used to relieve anxiety and to control the agitation that is a side effect of...

An article from Prevention provides a list of 6 strange physical symptoms of stress that you may not even associate with too much stress in your...

According to an online poll conducted by the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, over half of women reported increased anxiety or depression...

Supervisors who demean, insult, or otherwise abuse their employees may simply not be getting enough exercise. A new study from Northern Illinois...