Why you really should never go to bed angry
When your mom often offers sage relationship advice about never going to bed angry, don’t roll your eyes: she may be on to something.
Researchers at Beijing Normal University in China, using psychological testing and brain scans, found that during sleep, the brain reorganizes the way negative memories are stored, making it harder to forget about them the next day.
“In our opinion, yes, there is certain merit to this age-old advice,” study co-author Yunzhe Liu told The Guardian. “We would suggest to first resolve arguments before going to sleep; don’t sleep on your anger.”
While the authors acknowledge that the findings are limited because the test subjects were all healthy males, they believe further testing will show similar results in females and might eventually be useful for helping individuals who suffer from phobias or conditions like PTSD.
Of course, the best way to avoid going to bed angry is to properly manage your anger and relationship issues in the first place. Dr. Judy Ronan Woodburn, an Advocate Medical Group psychologist with Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill., offers the following tips:
- Take positive steps to resolve the problem that caused your anger. Try not to let angry feelings linger and fester. “Communication, negotiation, and compromise are important,” Dr. Woodburn says.
- When you have an issue with another person, do not attack the person; instead, focus on the person’s behavior. No name-calling. “Instead of saying, “You are such a jerk!,” say, “I feel disrespected when you yell at me.”
- Calm down before you discuss issues. “Shouting just tends to lead to more shouting,” says Dr. Woodburn. “Take a temporary time out to calm down, if needed.”
- Use “I” statements, not “you” statements. Assert your own experience, rather than accusing the other person of something, which can lead to defensiveness. “For example, say, ‘I felt hurt when you missed our date,’ instead of ‘You hurt me when you missed our date,’” says Dr. Woodburn.
- Use humor to help change your perspective.
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