Good sleep may protect against fear

A good night’s sleep does so much for the body—and the mind. Now add fear reduction to the list.

fear sleepResearchers at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, conducted a study to determine whether people’s sleep patterns would be a good indicator of whether they would be susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorder or fear. The findings were published in the Oct. 23 Journal of Neuroscience.

In the study, 17 students wore headbands and bracelets to record brainwaves and arm movements for a week. At the same time, the scientists asked them to participate in an experiment that caused them to associate a picture of a neutral object, such as a lamp, with a mild electric shock.

They found that those who spent more time in REM sleep had lower connectivity between the amygdala, the hippocampus and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex during fear learning, according to an Oct. 24 article on This has significance for PTSD because the amygdala and the hippocampus work together in the brain’s fight-or-flight fear response. The ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which is associated with memory consolidation, has been thought to work with the amygdala and hippocampus to trigger PTSD-related symptoms.