Should you sleep after emotional trauma?
In a November 2011 study by a world expert in sleep and learning (Matthew Walker), young healthy adults viewed emotional images, either slept or did not sleep, and reviewed the images. Those who slept before re-viewing reported less emotional discomfort when re-viewing. Michael Breus PhD, “The Sleep Doctor,” discussed this study and concluded, “So remember, as I always say, it is truly better to ‘Sleep on it’ to feel better.”
However, a new study suggests that staying awake after traumatic events may provide greater peace. This study followed a very similar protocol to the first: pictures->sleep or now sleep🡪re-view of pictures. These subjects reported more intense emotional responses to re-viewing negative stimuli after sleep.
So, sleep science cannot yet answer the question, “In the short-term, should I sleep after emotional trauma?” Over the long-term, insomnia produced by emotional trauma may perpetuate depression, anxiety, and PTSD. So, over the long-term, seeing a physician to address such insomnia may improve related conditions.
However, there is consensus, along with a body of literature extending over decades, that sleep contributes to memory consolidation. So, if you’re a student and want to remember what you’ve studied, “Sleep on it.”