They say time heals all wounds, and new research from the University of California, Berkeley, indicates that time spent in dream sleep can help us overcome painful ordeals. UC Berkeley researchers have found that during the dream phase of sleep, also known as REM sleep, our stress chemistry shuts down and the brain processes emotional experiences and takes the edge off difficult memories. The findings offer a compelling explanation for why people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), such as war veterans, have a hard time recovering from distressing experiences and suffer reoccurring nightmares. They also offer clues into why we dream.
“The dream stage of sleep, based on its unique neurochemical composition, provides us with a form of overnight therapy, a soothing balm that removes the sharp edges from the prior day’s emotional experiences,” said Matthew Walker, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkeley.