Sleep – Medicine for the Mind


One in three Australians don’t sleep well. Poor sleep is associated with an increased risk of stroke, diabetes, obesity and car accidents1. It’s not just your physical health at stake, a good night’s sleep goes a long way to bolster your emotional wellbeing.


Accentuate the Positive

Most people feel better and brighter the day after a good night’s sleep. Now there’s scientific proof that sleep does indeed help accentuate the positive, making it easier to keep your glass half full.

In a study reported in Neuroscience Journal2 two groups were followed. Group 1 were asked to sleep normally, and Group 2 were asked to keep awake for 36 hours prior to participating in the trial. At their first appointment both groups were given a list of words to memorise, and then sent home to sleep normally for two nights. At the follow up appointment, they were asked to recall the words. Group 2 recalled 40% fewer words than their sleeping counterparts. The original list had covertly contained words that had a neutral, positive or negative emotional bias. Group 2 recalled virtually all the negative words, but had trouble recalling the positive ones. Apparently sleep helps cast a rosy glow over the past.


Sleep to Recover

People with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) often don’t sleep well. It makes sense that a traumatic event would have an ongoing impact on sleep, but perversely, fractured sleep has a negative impact on PTSD. It is known that sleep is important in the formation of memories. Studies have also found that during sleep, it is possible to remove negative and painful emotions that may surround certain memories. The part of sleep associated with this marvellous benefit is REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. REM sleep occurs towards the end of a normal sleep cycle and is associated with dreaming. With enough REM sleep, feelings such as terror, grief and fear that may surround a past traumatic event will start to fade. It seems the memories remain without the person having to relive the emotional trauma of the event. If sleep quality is poor, particularly the REM phase, it makes the healing road that much more difficult. 2

Now you know… if you feel a bit grumpy after a bad night’s sleep you have good reason.

Yoga and slowing your breathing (as taught in Buteyko) helps improve sleep quality. 3