In a new study, researchers found that people who suffer from insomnia are unable to get emotional distress off their mind.
This means these people may be haunted by cringe-worthy mistakes and embarrassing blunders they made in the past.
The research was conducted by a team from the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience.
It is known that sleep helps us to remember important experiences.
But sleep is also important for us to get rid of the emotional distress from unhappy experiences.
In the study, the scientists asked participants to relive their most shameful experiences of decades ago while making MRI scans of their brain activity.
They found that good sleepers literally settled those experiences in their head as neutralized memories.
But people with insomnia were not able to do so.
The finding suggests that maybe only good sleepers can profit from sleep when it comes to shedding emotional tension.
in people with insomnia, the process does not work well and may even go worse.
The team suggests that insomnia could primarily be caused by a failing neutralization of emotional distress.
It may help explain why insomnia is the primary risk factor for the development of disorders of mood, anxiety, and PTSD.
According to the researchers, the causes of insomnia are probably found in brain circuits that regulate emotions.
These circuits contain risk genes for insomnia and may not activate properly, as they normally do, during rapid eye movement sleep.
Without the benefits of sound sleep, distressing events in the past continue to activate the emotional circuits of the brain as if they are happening right now.
The lead author of the study is Rick Wassing. The study is published in the leading scientific journal Brain.
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