A good night’s sleep can genuinely make our problems seem less important, particularly if the stress is caused by embarrassment at one’s behaviour.
That is according to a study carried out by the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience.
The team took 64 individuals, half of whom were good sleepers and half suffered with insomnia.
They were given headphones and asked to sing along karaoke-style to the songs.
They were then made to listen to a recordings of their singing to cause them embarrassment.
The subjects were then asked to fill out a questionnaire rating their shame, and made to repeat the questionnaire after a night’s sleep.
Eus van Someren, who led the research, said: “Insomnia is not only a disorder of sleep, but also of feeling tense all day. We reasoned: what if this is where it starts, not in a failing sleep regulation, but in a failure to get rid of tension?”
The results showed that those subjects that suffered with insomnia still felt a great deal of embarrassment by their singing after a sleep, whereas those with normal sleeping patterns no longer felt so embarrassed.
Professor van Someren explained: “I remember from my time as a musician how embarrassing it can be to listen to oneself.
“I was the first guinea pig and we didn’t need a recording device to see how ashamed I was: the sweat was visible in the palms of my hands. So it seemed a good procedure to induce self-relevant emotions.”
A second experiment was also carried out, whereby the subjects were asked to recall a previous embarrassing incident while listening back to their singing performances.
During this process, their brains were scanned to monitor activity.
Whilst both groups remained embarrassed by the recording of their singing, those with regular sleep patterns were far less embarrassed by their previous behaviour, than those with insomnia.
Professor van Someren was not surprised by the results, concluding: “During sleep, connections between neurons can either be strengthened or weakened: sleep helps us to keep our brain networks optimal.
“It is easy to imagine that one cannot get rid of the emotions of today, then [taking] them to tomorrow, meaning tension increases all the time. It may precede the poor sleep that will inevitably follow.”