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Sleep solidifies bad feelings

Night of slumber keeps negative emotions fresh

1:08pm, January 19, 2012

A night of shut-eye sears bad feelings into the brain, while waking hours take the emotional edge off, a new study finds. Though preliminary and somewhat inconsistent with earlier research, the results suggest that staying awake after something awful happens might be a way to blunt the emotional fallout of traumatic experiences, researchers report in the Jan. 18 Journal of Neuroscience.

Sleep is known to lock in memories, particularly emotional ones, but scientists didn’t know whether accompanying feelings are locked in, too — a question that’s particularly relevant to people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“If we really want to know if this is relevant to trauma survivors, then we need to know if sleep not just changes the memory, but if it changes how you feel about it if you experience it again,” says study coauthor Rebecca Spencer of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

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