Some scientists and sleep doctors say going to bed angry can have serious ill effects on your health, aside from bringing about insomnia and sleepless nights. Dr. Alexander Golbin, M.D.* says, "Chronic anger increases blood pressure and heart rate, increases pressure inside your skull, makes breathing irregular, induces chronic muscle spasms, decreases insulin activity and creates multiple other symptoms. In short, chronic anger destroys your health, especially if your health is already poor, particularly if you have heart problems."
But sometimes we just can't help it because anger happens. Occasional anger is ok, according to the sleep doctors. It's the chronic going to bed or falling asleep angry that can bring about insomnia or sleepless nights where you lie in bed trying to fall asleep or hoping to get at least a couple hours of sleep before you have to get up and face the next day.
It's obvious that we go to bed tired at night. We wake up refreshed, rested and energized the next morning. The body using its built-in intelligence knows how to relieve itself of fatigue and accumulated stress and strain from the day's activities. So if you hit the bed, fall asleep and have an angry dream about your ex-spouse or your boss it can be a good thing because it may be the body getting rid of stress and strain. But there's a difference between having an angry dream and falling asleep angry. Lying in bed steaming mentally activates your physiological functions getting you ready for action. Not the best way to fall asleep easily. Then when you do get to sleep you may wake up again because you're so upset with your target of anger.
As it turns out, you may fall asleep angry at someone and wake up thinking about them, maybe even have insomnia thinking about that horrible person, but in the end, the anger is going to hurt you more then them. This is because of the physiological responses that happen when anger seizes hold of our emotions. The fight or flight response kicks in. Just that alone will keep most people from falling asleep or bring about a night of lying in bed staring at the ceiling. And of course a sleepless night of tossing and turning brings about all kinds of imbalances that lead to poor health, the most common being insomnia.
But at the same time, anger is real and necessary in life. It has its undeniable role. We live with it. We can't live without it. This is not to say everyone has to be angry. But when it is appropriate even the most peaceful person is not above getting angry and uses anger to make a point.
Obviously to hold onto anger, fall asleep angry, lie in bed angry, wake up in bed angry, is not healthy. Even if only out of self-preservation we need to figure out a way to release or neutralize the anger. Getting a good night's sleep is probably the best way to neutralize anger because it allows the body to throw off the physiological counterparts to the emotion of anger and it also gives your mind a rest. Maybe the person you are angry with isn't really worth all your time and attention. Maybe you've got better things to do than lie in bed steaming, sleepless, verging on insomnia, waking up angry while the person you're angry at remains untouched. What did it really accomplish other than contribute to your aging process?
To quote Dr. Golbin again, "Beware of your own anger and try to find appropriate ways of release. Remember that anger in sleep will choose you as its target. Turn your sleep from being a killer to being the greatest healer of your emotional frustrations."
- article derived from Sleep & Health Newsletter, April 2004
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