Following the attacks on September 11th sleep clinics all across the country saw large spikes in insomnia; this is not an uncommon occurrence after a highly publicized emotional event. The question looms, why is sleep disturbed in individuals who are seemingly unharmed and in no foreseeable danger as a result of a nationally tragedy?
Sleep can be disturbed by stress related to feelings of being overwhelmed or powerless, like in a situation such as the Boston Marathon bombing. Tragedies heavily covered in the media are blazoned before our eyes on every channel and we are left with a sense of wondering how and why something like this could have happened. These memories are stored vividly in our brain with emotion-fueled detail, and are encoded into memory as significant and, more importantly, unresolved.
Many experts believe sleep to be a time of replaying and strengthening memories. Assuming this perspective is correct, it only makes sense that sleep is disturbed by memories stored with vivid emotional detail. This would be especially true if the experience cannot produce an answer to the question of why someone could do something so devastating.
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