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Sleeping off traumatic experiences may not be the ideal solution, experts say

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Sleeping off difficult situations including traumatic experiences may not be the ideal solutions, experts have suggested as this strategy often backfires and leads to what is clinically known as ‘flashbacks’ and a better to tackle trauma is sleep deprivation.

Sleep is considered one of the most important facet of maintaining productivity, emotional stability, storage of memories and overall well being; however, scientists reveal that in case of traumatic experiences, sleep often leads to ‘flashbacks’ that act as a sort of replay of the entire experience or part of it leading to more anxiety and stress.

In a new study, Oxford University experts say that sleeping after a traumatic experience will lead to storage of grim memories – even those ones we may not want to remember. For their research, scientists made study participants watch a film containing emotionally traumatic scenes. After that few were allowed to sleep while others were preventing from sleeping.

The findings were surprising. According to team member Dr Katharina Wulff the group which was sleep-deprived had fewer intrusive memories or flashbacks than those who had been able to sleep normally.

“We know that sleep improves memory performance including emotional memory, but there may be a time when remembering in this way is unhelpful”, Wulff said.

Researchers believe that the findings may help guide doctors, who often prescribe sleeping pills to their patients who are struggling to cope with a certain traumatic or harrowing episode.

The researchers were quick to point out that further research is needed in this area as flashbacks aren’t well understood and because real-life trauma cannot be replicated in a laboratory.

Dr Kate Porcheret of the university’s Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, who led the study, said that more research to establish a link between sleep and trauma and how they both interact will enable medical professionals to ensure that their patients are well cared for after a traumatic event.