One of the most powerful emotions registered in the human feelings is fear. Sleep can be used as an enemy of phobias, suggest the researchers .Go ahead and catch up on your sleep to calm down your phobias, claims the research.

Aim of the study

Experts say that adding a night time component to your hectic life can be a treatment for the fears and phobias one lugs around. Benefits of sleep have been registered with various sources .There are studies which state that memories can be processed by proper sleep and now they say that the fears one feels can also be calmed by getting some sleep.

The research study

The researchers roped in 15 healthy youngsters for the study. The young adults were given mild electric shocks and exposed to an odor, as they were shown two different faces. Their skin conductance was monitored as they were provided with an experience of “fear conditioning”.

Half the time that the test subjects were shown pictures of two faces, they received a mild shock and at the same time the researchers showed face 1 along with the smell of mint and face 2 with a lemony odor. The brains of the test subjects were put through the magnetic resonance imaging for studying the collected data, which depended on the two contextual cues given to the person- the aroma and the face pictures.

The researchers measured the sweat of the subjects and found out that they got scared with the aroma and faces when they got a shock. This experience made the youngsters associate the odor and the electric shocks with fear.

Study implications

After this, the subjects were asked to rest with an EEG machine attached to them for monitoring their brain waves. Then Hauner made them experience the smells according to the fear conditioning that she had conditioned their body to during a slow wave sleep pattern. The test subjects proved that the longer they were exposed to the odor during their slow wave sleep state, much better was their response towards fear.

After waking up, the subjects were shown the face pictures in the same set as during sleep. This experience exposed the group of sleeping people to fear memories and found out that the fear reduced towards a similar situation when awake.

The lead author of the study Katherine Hauner, assistant director of the Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, stated that this is a unique finding as they’ve managed to depict “a small but significant decrease in fear. The bigger picture is that, perhaps, the treatment of phobias can be enhanced during sleep.”

Researchers concluded that giving a fear filled sensory cue during sleep may help reduce that fear when the test subject is awake.

So, it appears that closing the doors of the eye for some time can help in reducing the fears.

This is mentioned in an online study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

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