Why do we brood over our fears at 3 a.m.

Greg Murray is a therapist, psychology researcher specializing in mood, sleep and circadian rhythm, professor and director of the Center for Mental Health at Swinburne University of Technology in Australia. In the columns de Science Alert, he takes the floor to answer a question that is very common among many of us: Why do we brood over our fears when we wake up at 3am? These thoughts “Painful and punitive” are often “Irrational and unproductive”. They evaporate when the day breaks. This phenomenon can be explained scientifically.

The neuroscientific study of the human body shows that it reaches a turning point around 3 a.m. The core temperature of the body rises, sleep, divided into two stages, decreases at this time before entering its second period, during which it secretes melatonin (the sleep hormone) and reaches its peak. The levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) also increase. These mechanisms are triggered, because the body is preparing for the new day that awaits it. They also have the effect of waking us up and this is sometimes accompanied by stress that is difficult to manage physiologically.

Time for physical and emotional recovery

Greg Murray explains that most of the time, people manage to stay asleep despite the signals being sent. But stress activates mindfulness and increases the risk of sleep interruption. The Covid-19 period demonstrated this, illustrates the researcher. “There is evidence that the pandemic is a stressor disrupting sleep. So if you’re prone to waking up at 3 a.m. right now, you’re definitely not alone. ”

During this period of the sleep cycle, the body is in physical and emotional recovery: physical and cognitive conditions are at their lowest. Internal resources to tackle the problems are therefore low. Added to this is the absence of other resources generally useful for the adaptation of a human being, such as “Social ties and cultural assets”. Without human and physical presence, “We are alone in the dark with our thoughts. So the mind is partly right when it concludes that the problems it has generated are unsolvable ” at this hour. The worry then takes precedence, identifies a problem turned in all directions and highlights the worst-case scenario.

The researcher in psychology does not content himself with answering the question posed at the outset. He shares his secrets to fight against the paralyzing thoughts that occur at 3am and to get back to sleep. He advises using mindfulness by focusing on your breathing, getting up, turning on a dim light, and reading.

Source: Slate.fr by www.slate.fr.

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