Irregular sleep patterns and lack of adequate sleep increase the risk of contracting Alzheimer’s disease and other illnesses. A recent study suggests that the same sleep-related issues might be making it hard for the brain to get rid of unwanted memories.
The University of York conducted a study whose findings revealed that sleep deficiency might deprive the brain of its ability to eliminate unwanted memories or thoughts. Many factors influence our thoughts, including circumstances, beliefs, thoughts, and sensory inputs such as what we see or hear. The researchers claim that our conscious awareness experiences unwanted memories when we remember things.
Unfortunately, unwanted thoughts may cause other issues such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression. Our brains have different mechanisms for suppressing unwanted memories or thoughts. Researchers sought to establish which factors affect the brain’s ability to suppress those memories.
The researchers evaluated 60 healthy adults trained to associate photographed faces with neutral scenarios such as urban life and negative scenarios such as war. Some of the participants experienced disrupted sleep, while some had a healthy sleep on the first night. They were all requested to forget thoughts of the scenarios for which they associated the faces. The researchers found that participants with disrupted sleeping patterns had a hard time forgetting the native thoughts that they associated with the photos.
The link between unwanted memories and mental disorders
Sleep-deprived individuals experienced 50 percent more unwanted thoughts. Interestingly, individuals with good sleeping patterns were able to forget the negative thoughts, and they also had a complimentary view of the negative scenarios. According to Dr. Scott Cairney, the study provides knowledge of how sleeping patterns affect humans’ mental health. He also noted that poor sleeping patterns might cause emotional disturbance and intrusive thoughts, contributing more to disrupted sleep, and the vicious cycle continues.
“Upsetting intrusions and emotional distress exacerbate sleep problems, inhibiting the sleep needed to support recovery,” stated Dr. Cairney.
Dr. Marcus Harrington pointed out that mundane events may trigger unwanted memories that may fade away quickly for ordinary people. However, people who have PTSD and other psychiatric conditions may have a hard time getting rid of such memories, and it continues to affect their mental state.