When you're having a particularly awful day, the thing you desire to do most is likely hiding away from the world and sleeping it off. While naps are usually highly restorative, this circumstance is one exception where the opposite is true. If you decide to sleep it off the next time you're enduring a bad day, you could be setting yourself up for an even worse experience later on.
A study published this past week in the journal Nature Communications and highlighted by New York Magazine's Science of Us shows that sleep will actually help bad memories stick in your brain. A great deal of the process of memory consolidation—where information is moved from short-term to long-term storage—occurs while we're sleeping. Researchers had participants view mug shots paired with disturbing images and then try to shake off the memories. Those who consciously tried to forget them before sleep were more successful than those who had a full night's rest before trying to actively suppress the memories.
The participants' brains were also scanned in the process, revealing that before sleeping, most of the brain activity occurred in the hippocampus, responsible for memory. After sleeping, actively trying to forget the negative memories required much more advanced activity in a more diverse set of regions, making it a more difficult task to execute. Takeaway: Don't take a nap when you're trying to shake something off.
Wondering what to do instead? Here's how to shake a bad day in five steps.