Difficult decisions can be made easier if you “sleep on it.” In contrast, after unfortunate news, trauma, a big argument or any emotional upset, sleep makes your bad feelings worse. So reduce mental strain after unpleasantness by staying awake for a while even if it’s the middle of the night. Otherwise, giving in to sleep magnifies and promotes your unsettled feelings.
Reining In Emotions
I previously wrote an article about the role excessive emotions play in poor health, a relationship described in the theories of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). I have also noted how the body is merely energetic vibrations. By changing your vibration, you can change your health. Vibration is energy. When we do, feel or even think negative things our body energy shifts. To get the essence of this concept, just think about a time when you felt invigorated or content, and then compare that to how you feel when you’re anxious, panicked or depressed.
A recent study by researchers at University of Massachusetts (Amherst), published in Journal of Neuroscience, found that sleeping soon after a traumatic event locks in bad memories and emotions. This is an important concept; extended time spent in a poor emotional state is not healthy. Too much sadness can lead to depression. Too much crying impacts the lungs, which help regulate oxygen in the body. Wallowing in bad memories and reflecting on hard or emotional times brings those moments into the present and makes you live them all over again. It also impairs your feelings, your emotions and your energy in the present. Repeatedly reliving negative experiences is virtually the same as having those experiences again and again in the present. Negative memories and emotions trigger one another and set the body into a frequency of unhealthy energy.
The Real Thing
The Amherst researchers found that you don’t even have to experience an actual, negative event to suffer. Merely seeing troubling images in your mind is enough to cause lasting emotional trauma, if you sleep on it. The team conducted the study by showing unsettling images to more than 100 people and asked for their immediate responses. The initial image responses were matched against responses to the very same images 12 hours later. To test whether sleep locks in the turbulent emotions triggered by these types of pictures, half of the respondents slept during the 12-hour break and the other half did not.
The respondents who slept after exposure to unsettling images had a similar strong reaction to them on their second viewing 12 hours later. University of Massachusetts neuroscientist Rebecca Spencer, one of the study’s co-authors said, “Not only did sleep protect the memory, but it also protected the emotional state.” In other words, the strength of the unpleasant emotional reaction, the feelings associated with it and the thoughts about it were kept intact and unaltered when respondents went to sleep with the unsettling images fresh in their mind. In fact, some of the respondents stated that their negative emotions were amplified and even worse on second viewing.
Don’t Close Your Eyes
The respondents who did not sleep were better off, in this case, because their reaction to the images the second time was less severe than when first seeing them. What’s even more interesting: Those respondents who did not sleep in some cases were able to so effectively put the memory of the images out of their minds that they found it difficult to even remember whether they had seen some of the images previously.
The lesson here is that when something traumatic happens, even if it is virtual (such as fears or emotions from watching a movie), it is best to stay awake and not sleep it off. According to Spenser, “This study suggests the biological response we have after trauma might actually be healthy. Perhaps letting people go through a period of insomnia before feeding them sleeping meds is actually beneficial.” It’s beneficial for the short term because the body does need sleep to repair — especially after a traumatic incident. Therefore, it is best to try to find perspective and reframe the way you see the event before sleeping.
For unreal events, like emotions brought up in reaction to a movie or book where bad things happen to good people, finding perspective is much easier. We know these events are not real, but the study suggests that falling asleep soon after reacting to unsettling images (pictures, thoughts, visual projections) worsens their effects. By holding on to these emotions and feelings, we are changing our mood, brain chemistry and patterns of thinking about ourselves and the world. This alters our vibration and our energy, and can lead us down a dark path of self-pity, self-doubt, fear and low self-confidence. In these circumstances, which are more frequent than real-life events, switching thoughts to a focus on something more pleasant before bed may help. Read or watch something funny, remember someone you love, think of your hobby or of an upcoming event you are excited about. Changing your thoughts can change your vibrations and alter what you lock in to give it higher positive energy and good vibrations.
When it comes to real-life emotional or psychological trauma, it is hard to change our emotions or thoughts before we fall asleep. Yet, it is necessary, especially if one hopes to overcome the event rapidly. In this connection, consider a technique known as reframing that is utilized in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). Basically, this simple technique helps you change the way you perceive traumatic or unsettling situations and make them less so.
This consists of three steps:
Step 1 – Identify the Problem. Try to determine the root of the upsetting situation. This means asking the questions how, what, where, why and when your problem arose. I wrote another article on how to ask “why” to get to the root of a problem. Once you can identify the why, you can move on to Step 2.
Step 2 – Align Intention with Behavior. You must grasp the necessity of aligning your actions with true, internal intentions. For instance, if your intention is to be healthy and lose weight, then understanding that you must change certain behaviors to reach that goal is crucial. Simply being upset because somebody pointed out you are overweight is not sufficient if you don’t bring your behavior into line. If this is an issue, there is work to do and you have to engage with the actions described in Step 3.
Step 3 – Setting the Way Forward. Deciding that a change is necessary is so vital because it creates motivation to change. Yes, finding out you have diabetes or arthritis or being called fat is emotionally upsetting. But obsessing over it or being mad at everyone else or even yourself doesn’t change the situation. And if you sleep while feeling these negative emotions, they amplify themselves and keep you in a negative emotional loop. So, decide to make a change for the better, think about all the wonderful things that can occur once that change is in play and you can raise your emotional state, your energy and vibration. Then, when you sleep, that new pattern of optimistic change will be locked in to your body.
These reframing steps are simple yet powerful. I do realize that in times of life-threatening events, it may be near impossible to put it them into practice. In this case, therapy and other behavioral changing therapies can be helpful. The important thing, based on the findings of this study, is that you have to make an effort to feel better before falling asleep.
And who doesn’t want to feel good? For most of our evenings, major trauma is not a problem. So go ahead and find ways to be happy or at least content and centered before drifting off to sleep and lock in those good feelings. They help your mind and emotions carry you forward to changing your quality of life.
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