Insomniacs can’t forget cringe-worthy mistakes they have made in the past

Insomniacs are unable to forget any cringe-worthy mistakes they have made in the past ‘because they don’t get enough sleep to help their brain resolve feelings of shame’

  • If you fell over in public today, it’s likely you won’t feel ashamed by it tomorrow 
  • However, the same is not true for insomniacs, a team of researchers have found
  • Dutch scientists asked dozens of volunteers to relive cringe-worthy mistakes 
  • The team also took MRI scans, in hope of noticing a change in brain activity 

Sleep helps you to get over embarrassing moments, scientific research has found.

It seems that getting a good night’s rest helps your brain resolve emotions – helping you to deal with cringe-worthy episodes in life.

But scientists found that insomniacs remain haunted by embarrassing moments.

It is speculated that their brains have not had a chance to deal with the episode.

Researchers at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience based on their research on 27 people with insomnia and 30 normal sleepers.

If you fell over in public today, it’s likely you won’t dwell on it and the embarrassment will be all gone by tomorrow. However, the same is not true for insomniacs, researchers have found

They were all asked to remember their most shameful experiences of decades ago while making MRI scans of their brain activity.

They were then asked to do the same after night’s sleep.

While good sleepers settled those experiences in their head as neutralized memories, people with insomnia were not able to do so.

The brain wave patterns seen in the good sleepers showed that the feelings had neutralised, with little reaction in the area of the brain, the limbic system, that governs emotions.

But in the people with insomnia, they showed a strong reaction in this area.

The participants were also asked to assess their level of embarrassment on a numbered scale.

The finding suggests that insomnia could be linked to the failure to neutralise emotional distress.


Insomnia means you regularly have problems sleeping. It usually gets better by changing your sleeping habits.

You have insomnia if you regularly: find it hard to go to sleep, wake up several times during the night, lie awake at night, wake up early and can’t go back to sleep, still feel tired after waking up

Everyone needs different amounts of sleep. On average, adults need 7 to 9 hours, while children need 9 to 13 hours.

You probably don’t get enough sleep if you’re constantly tired during the day.

The most common causes of insomnia are: stress, anxiety or depression, excessive noise, an uncomfortable bed or alcohol, caffeine or nicotine.

Insomnia usually gets better by changing your sleeping habits. For example, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, and only going to bed when you feel tired.

Source: NHS

The findings were published in the journal Brain.

Co-author Rick Wassing said: ‘Sayings like “sleeping on it” to “get things off your mind” reflect our nocturnal digestion of daytime experiences.

‘Brain research now shows that only good sleepers profit from sleep when it comes to shedding emotional tension.

‘The process does not work well in people with insomnia. In fact, their restless nights can even make them feel worse.’ 

In a connected study published in the journal Sleep, the researchers recorded participants to sing along karaoke-style into a microphone.

Headphones prevented them from hearing their own voice and finding the correct pitch. Their singing was recorded and played back later.

The scientists found that participants felt intense shame when listening to their own out-of-tune solo singing.

But after listening following a good night’s sleep, they didn’t feel that distressed about it anymore.

However, the researchers said that after a restless night, people with insomnia were in fact even more upset about it.

Around seven per cent of people suffer from insomnia.