Does shame keep you up at night?

This 2016 Netherlands human study found:

“Restless REM [rapid eye movement] sleep reflects a process that interferes with the overnight resolution of distress. Its accumulation may promote the development of chronic hyperarousal.

We use the term “restless REM sleep” here to refer to REM sleep with a high number of phasic events, including arousals and eye movements.

The present study focused on shame, because it may interfere the most with healthy psychological functioning and was shown to be predictive of developing depression and PTSD symptoms, including hyperarousal. By obstructing effective coping mechanisms, shame often hinders therapeutic progress, to the point that it may even lead to a negative therapeutic outcome.

A dedicated assessment of the subjective duration of distress after a shameful experience was complemented by assessments on nocturnal mentation, insomnia severity, hyperarousal, and major life events, as well as an Internet-implemented structured interview on health.”

From the Limitations section:

  1. “Restless REM sleep was not directly quantified but approximated by means of a validated questionnaire rating of thought-like nocturnal mentation.
  2. Non-REM sleep has also been implicated in the resolution of emotional distress.
  3. A third limitation regards the observational nature of the present study..a more definite conclusion will require studies using experimental manipulation of emotions and sleep.
  4. Whereas there was good reason to focus first on distress induced by shame in our innovative approach to the role of sleep in self-conscious emotions rather than the basic emotions usually studied, our findings should not be interpreted as supporting a unique role for shame or self-conscious emotions. Future studies could address whether the duration of distress elicited by other self-conscious and basic emotions has a similar two-factor structure.”

I applaud the inclusion of emotion in research. I’m not convinced that studying shame will lead to etiologic advances in science, though.

How does shame arise in our lives? Is it a biologic human need on the same level as nourishment, protection, and socialization?

My opinion is that shame is a symptom along with “nocturnal mentation, insomnia severity, hyperarousal.” If a person’s thoughts, feelings, behavior, and sleep are adversely affected by shame, a resolution should be achieved by addressing the underlying causes, not by tamping down the symptoms.

http://www.pnas.org/content/113/9/2538.full “Slow dissolving of emotional distress contributes to hyperarousal”

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