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  • So exactly, how does a lack of sleep impact our emotional brain?

  • Why does that lack of sleep make us

  • so emotionally irrational and hyperreactive?

  • [Sleeping with Science]

  • Well, several years ago, we conducted a brain imaging study.

  • And we took a group of healthy adults.

  • And we either gave them a full night of sleep

  • or we sleep-deprived them.

  • And then the next day, we placed them inside an MRI scanner,

  • and we looked at how their emotional brain was reacting.

  • And we focused on one structure in particular,

  • it's called the amygdala.

  • And the amygdala is one of the centerpiece regions

  • for the generation of strong emotional reactions,

  • including negative emotional reactions.

  • Now when we looked at those people who had had a full night of sleep,

  • what we saw was a nice, appropriate moderate degree

  • of reactivity from the amygdala.

  • It wasn't as though there was no response at all,

  • but it was an appropriate response.

  • Yet in those people who were sleep-deprived,

  • that deep emotional brain center was in fact, hyperactive.

  • Indeed, the amygdala was almost 60 percent more responsive

  • under conditions of a lack of sleep.

  • But why was that the case?

  • And what we went on to discover,

  • is that there's another brain region that's involved.

  • This brain region is called the prefrontal cortex,

  • and it sits directly above your eyes.

  • And you can think of the prefrontal cortex

  • almost like the CEO of your brain.

  • It's very good at making high-level, executive, top-down

  • control decisions and reactions.

  • In fact, it's one of the most evolved regions of our brain.

  • And one of the parts of the brain that it controls

  • is this deep emotional center, the amygdala.

  • Now in those people who had had a full night of sleep,

  • there was a nice, strong communication and connection

  • between the prefrontal cortex,

  • regulating that deep emotional brain center.

  • But in those people who were sleep-deprived,

  • that communication, that connection between the prefrontal cortex

  • and that deep amygdala emotional brain center

  • had essentially been severed.

  • And as a consequence,

  • the amygdala was responding far more reactively

  • due to a lack of sleep.

  • It's almost as though without sleep

  • we become all emotional accelerator pedal,

  • and too little regulatory control brake.

  • And that seems to be the reason that we become so unbuckled

  • in terms of our emotional integrity

  • when we haven't been sleeping well.

  • So that's the bad that can happen

  • if I take sleep away from you.

  • But it turns out

  • that there's something good that happens

  • when you get your sleep back.

  • And sleep, particularly rapid eye movement sleep,

  • actually offers a form of emotional first aid.

  • Because it's during sleep at night

  • that we take these difficult emotional experiences

  • that we've been having during the day,

  • and that sleep acts almost like a nocturnal soothing balm,

  • taking the sharp edges off those difficult experiences.

  • And so perhaps it's not time that heals all wounds,

  • it's time during sleep that provides that form of emotional convalescence.

  • So that when we come back the next day,

  • we're able to cope with those emotional memories.

So exactly, how does a lack of sleep impact our emotional brain?

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A2 sleep emotional amygdala brain prefrontal cortex prefrontal

How sleep affects your emotions | Sleeping with Science, a TED series

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/10/27
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