Stress chemicals such as nor-epinephrine shut down and the brain processes emotional experiences during REM sleep according to new research coming out of UC Berkeley that is published in the journal, Current Biology. During REM sleep memories are reactivated, put in a perspective, and connected and integrated, but in a state when stress neurochemicals are beneficially suppressed.
These researchers studied 35 young adults in two groups after viewing 150 emotionally images. Both groups were shown the images 12 hours later, but one group was allowed to sleep for 8 hours before testing. The group allowed to sleep had a lower emotional reaction. Functional MRIs were done and showed less activity in the amygdala, where emotions are processed, and more in the prefrontal cortex, which is more rational and allows control over emotions. Sleeping pills tend to suppress REM sleep.