HEALTH / WELLNESS

Going To Bed Without Resolving An Argument Linked To Bad Mental Health – A New Study Reveals

One of the key advices that people get for maintaining a healthy relationship is to never go to bed without resolving an argument. It is believed that going to sleep on an argument deepens the impact of the negative memories making it harder for individuals to suppress them. Now this theory is supported by new medical research, which has found evidence linking the difficulty in forgetting bad memories with a good night’s sleep following an argument.

Over the past several years, neuroscientists have been studying the importance of proper sleep for learning and memory. This has led them to understand that sleeping helps to consolidate memories, irrespective of whether they are good or bad. They have also learned that learning and remembering new information becomes more difficult for individuals who do not get proper sleep. At the same time, a short day time nap can help to enhance the learning, creativity and memory of individuals in a significant manner.

Basic Facts About The New Study

A new study was conducted by the researchers at the Institute for Brain Research at Beijing Normal University in China, to test how retention of bad memories was affected by sleep. As a part of the study, researcher Yunzhe Liu and his team used a psychological technique to test the ability of 73 male participants to suppress their memories over a period of two days. The technique, which is called the “think/no-think” task, examined as to how the men reacted after they saw negative images over these two days.

The participants were first made to learn to associate faces with negative images, so that the participants could recall the images, when the faces were re-introduced to them. The participants were then made to see the faces again, first 30 minutes after they learned their association with the faces and then 24 hours after learning the association. At both times they were asked to suppress any negative memories that conjured up in their minds. While this task was being performed, the brain activity of each participant was monitored with the help of functional MRI.

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Conclusions From The Study

The results of the study were published in the Nature Communications journal. According to the report, the researchers found that the participants tended to remember the negative images better when they were made to see them 24 hours after the learning task rather than 30 minutes after the task was done. In other words, their ability to reminisce the negative images was significantly better when they had enjoyed a good night’s sleep after the learning task, than it was just minutes after the task was completed.

The researchers found the answer to this seemingly odd behavior in the reports of the brain mapping done on the participants during the task.  They came to know that the neural circuits responsible for memory suppression within the brain were more active in the participants just 30 minutes after the learning task. However, after a gap of 24 hours this activity became widely distributed making the task of repressing memories relatively harder. The scans further revealed that while the memory suppression occurred in the hippocampus area of the brain after 30 minutes, its location shifted to the cortex area after the gap of 24 hours.

Benefits Of The Study

The study clearly established the fact that bad memories become increasingly difficult to suppress once they have been consolidated by a good night’s sleep. This can lead to an increase in the stress levels and the resentment felt by individuals. However, the researchers were also hopeful that the study might have paved the way for better understanding and even treatment of mental conditions such as Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD).

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