Sleep treatment could help reduce fear


A new treatment programme could reduce levels of fear in people with anxiety and stress, according to scientists in the US.

Researchers from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine exposed subjects to two threatening faces repeatedly in a way that would induce an adverse amount of sweating, while increasing blood pressure and heart rate.

Electric shocks were also given to increase anxiety levels.

After the participants were suitably scared of the figures, a smell was introduced to the process, so that a second sense was associated with the fear – with either wood, clove, new trainers, lemon or mint scents placed in the same room as the experiment.

Subjects were then asked to go to sleep and as they entered the slow wave stage of slumber, where memories are consolidated, they were sprayed with the same perfume they were exposed to during the study.

It was found that doing this resulted in a small, but scientifically significant stress reduction, which could have wider implications for the treatment of some phobias as part of a cognitive behavioral therapy programme.