Fitness Magazine

Never Go to Bed Angry

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge
by Nina

Never go to bed angry

Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens: A Detail by Joan Webster

On Tuesday I read a short little piece in the NY Times questioning the adage “Never go to bed angry” (see here). It was one of those bottom line pieces, and the bottom line was this:
“Going to sleep upset or disturbed preserves the emotion, research suggests.”

In the cited study in The Journal of Neuroscience, scientists exposed 106 men and women to images that elicited various emotions. In some cases the emotions were negative and in other cases the emotions were positive or neutral. The researchers then looked at what happened 12 hours later when the subjects were shown both new images and the previous ones, either in the morning after a night of sleep, or at the end of a full day of wakefulness. The conclusion was:

“The scientists found that staying awake blunted the emotional response to seeing the upsetting images again. But when the subjects were shown the disturbing images after a night of sleep, their response was just as strong as when they had first seen them—suggesting that sleep “protected” the emotional response.”

That doesn’t sound good, does it? Going to bed angry and waking up angry is not only an unpleasant experience for you, but it probably doesn’t enhance your relationships with the people around you. Besides, it's also not a good idea to go to bed angry if you are concerned about getting a good night's sleep. Your stress levels will be high and your sleep, if you can sleep, will be restless—maybe filled with upsetting dreams—and you won’t feel rested in the morning.

But very probably you—unlike the people in the study—can’t just put away an “upsetting image” when you are very angry. In fact, the chances are you’ll keep having one angry thought after another, and with each angry thought you’ll get another jolt of adrenaline (that’s why they call it the “fight or flight response,” people), keeping your stress levels as high as they were before.

The good news is that Baxter says it takes only about 90 seconds to clear the adrenaline released in your system by an angry thought if you switch to a more neutral topic. So to put away your anger, he recommends a structured breath practice, in which you measure your inhalations and exhalations, and count your breaths to engage your mind. If you combine this type of breath practice with a supported inversion (such as Legs Up the Wall pose) or a supported forward bend (if you find those soothing), both of which help switch your nervous system to relaxation mode, you’ll get a double dose of calm.

You could also use a guided relaxation (see here) as a way to engage your mind and relax your nervous system at the same time.

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