Trauma can be processed easier if people sleep soon after the event, according to a new Swiss study.
In a study conducted by researchers at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, two groups of volunteers were shown a video with traumatic images. One group stayed awake after seeing the trauma video and the other group slept for the night. Each group then recorded their memories of the images for several days.
“Our results reveal that people who slept after the film had fewer and less distressing recurring emotional memories than those who were awake,” says study author Birgit Kleim, a clinical psychological scientist in the department of psychiatry, psychotherapy and psychosomatics at the University of Zurich, in a university press release. “This supports the assumption that sleep may have a protective effect in the aftermath of traumatic experiences.”
Sleep can weaken emotions such as fear, the release notes. It also enables people to process the memories.
Published in the December issue of Sleep, the study also indicates sleep can be used as an early prevention strategy for post-traumatic stress disorder.