Deep Sleep Can Reduce Anxiety Caused By Extreme Stress

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  • Stress at work can raise anxiety levels
  • The type of sleep that can best calm and reset the anxious brain is deep sleep
  • Deep sleep appears to be a natural anxiety inhibitor as long as people get it every night

Stress at work can raise anxiety levels, but findings of a new study have shown that deep sleep can help.

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In a study published in the journal Nature Human Behavior on Nov. 4, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley scanned the brains of 18 young adults as they viewed emotionally stirring videos, after getting a full night of sleep, and after a sleepless night. The researchers then measured the participants’ anxiety levels following each session using a questionnaire known as the state-trait anxiety inventory.

Study researcher Eti Ben Simon, a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Human Sleep Science at UC Berkeley, and colleagues found that a sleepless night can trigger up to a 30 percent increase in anxiety levels, but a full night of slumber can help stabilize emotions.

After a sleepless night, the brain scans showed a shutdown of the medial prefrontal cortex that normally helps keep anxiety in check. The brain’s deeper emotional centers were also overactive after a night of no sleep. The researchers also found that the type of sleep that can best calm and reset the anxious brain is deep sleep.

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Deep sleep, also known as non-rapid eye movement (NREM), is a dreamless sleep during which the breathing and heart rate are slow and regular, the body pressure is slow and the person sleeping is relatively still. The brain waves on the electroencephalographic (EEG) recording are also slow and of high voltage during NREM.

“Deep sleep had restored the brain’s prefrontal mechanism that regulates our emotions, lowering emotional and physiological reactivity and preventing the escalation of anxiety,” Simon said.

About 40 million adults in the United States have been diagnosed with anxiety disorder, which also currently rises among children and teens. The study points to sleep as a natural and non-pharmaceutical remedy for this condition. The researchers said that deep sleep appears to be a natural anxiety inhibitor as long as people get it every night.

Source :

Eurekalert