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Does it really matter if you go to bed angry?

Married or not, we have all heard the old adage “never go to bed angry.” Sure it dates back to biblical times, but sometimes it’s best to take age-old advice to heart. There’s a reason, after all, why grandmothers continue to offer the same wise words of wisdom, generation after generation.

For me, I don’t like to fall asleep filled with anger, because any sort of residual rage I might feel will most certainly find me in my dreams, continuing the fight as I sleep so I wake up feeling not only drained and exhausted, but also just as angry as I was when we fell asleep.

Turns out, my reasons for choosing to resolve issues before my head hits the pillow has scientific merit. A recent study by scientists at the University of Massachusetts observed more than 100 men and women to test their initial responses to negative images such as photographs of accident scenes or traumatic events, as well as their responses to positive and neutral images. The subjects were then shown the images again, some after 12 hours, which included a restorative night’s sleep, others after the end of a day filled with normal activities.

Those secondary reactions were also measured. It turns out that those who viewed negative images after sleep reacted just as strongly as they originally did, while those who had a day of distractions were less responsive, and showed reduced stress and anxiety levels that suggested a better ability to cope.

The results of the study were pretty clear to me. Sleeping intensifies negative reactions and enhances memories, protecting them rather than allowing them to drift away on a cloud of dreamy sleep. The study results also explain in part why it is sometimes so difficult to fall asleep with things on your mind.

Too, the negative aspects of anger – an elevated heart rate, higher blood pressure and overall stress – not only wreak havoc with our overall health, but also reduce the restorative aspects of sleep by weaving its way into our dreams, taking out our frustrations not on our intended target, but on ourselves instead.

There is nothing I hate more than waking up, still angry at whoever got me irritated to begin with, after an onslaught of nightmares recreating, in surreal detail, the events of the previous day.

Quoting comedian Phyllis Diller; “Never go to bed angry. Stay up and fight.” She might have been joking, but I like the advice. It means that come morning, the fight has been resolved, all issues have been most literally put to bed, and the stress of the night before is gone.


Until next time,

Peace, love and vitamin C!



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