Why sleep is so important for your amygdala

Author: Dr. Michelle Durkin on 1 March 2016

irishproverbHaving your own business means that you end up doing a lot of things that you never actually went to school for. I am professionally trained as a naturopathic doctor but we never learned anything about business and we certainly didn't learn anything about having a website. It makes me feel old saying this, but I didn't even have a website during my first year of business.

Now what does this have to do with sleep and your amygdala? Well, have you ever heard the phrase "sleep on it"?

I can think of many different times when I have tried to figure how to do something on my website. I could work on the problem for over an hour and not be able to figure it out. Eventually I decide to step away and give myself a break from it. Then the next day I would go back, and bingo! I figured out the answer. The next day it all seemed so simple.

People will also use this phrase when they have a difficult decision to make. "Sleeping on it" seems to give us the perspective we need to make the right decision.

The amygdala is the area of the brain responsible for the perception of emotions such as anger, fear, and sadness, as well as controlling aggression. The amygdala helps to store memories of events and emotions so that an individual may be able to recognize similar events in the future. You can also think of it as an integration centre or a super complex filing cabinet.

If we have trouble staying or falling asleep, require medication to get any sleep, or just don't get enough hours of sleep because we are addicted to Netflix, there is less integration of our emotions and the events associated with them. We end up with a heightened emotional reaction. Everything ends up seeming worse than it actually is. Every event starts getting filed under Danger instead of Don't Worry About It.

We will frequently recognize this in children. They are more whiny, irritable, or "emotional" when they haven't had enough sleep. But why is it that we don't recognize it in ourselves?

Now I would love to hear from you! What is one thing you can start doing to improve the quality of your sleep? Is there a time when you slept on it and had an easier time making a decision? Leave a comment now and you'll hear from me next week on Doctor as Teacher Tuesday.

As a side note, today along with being Doctor as Teacher Tuesday it is also my Dad's birthday, so Happy Birthday Dad!

One Reply to “Why sleep is so important for your amygdala”


So true, when I don’t get a good sleep I feel awful.

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