Research conducted at the University of California, Berkeley, found that dreaming may act as “overnight therapy,” taking the edge off of painful memories.
Subjects in the study were shown emotionally provocative photos before sleep, and then received brain scans while sleeping. During REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, part of the brain that handles emotions shut off, or slowed functioning. Subjects reported less of an emotional reaction to the photos the following morning.
Researchers do put a disclaimer on the findings: Dreaming is not a cure-all for emotional stress. David Kuhlmann, medical director for sleep medicine at Bothwell Regional Health Center in Sedalia, Mo., explained that dreaming only “helps improve the ability to handle stressful situations” and does not eliminate bad memories.