Getting Enough Sleep Improves Your Brain
by Kirsten Whittaker
that sleep has distinct stages that cycle through the night, and that your brain does
stay active during sleep, with different things happening during each stage of sleep.
"It turns out we are not like TiVo," explains Dr. Robert Stickgold of Harvard Medical
School who also serves as director of Boston's Center for Sleep and Cognition at
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, comparing our mind to the video recording
device. "TiVo is good at recording one station while it shows you another. We can't
do that. We can't simultaneously take in information and process it."
He believes that sleep helps in the information processing part of the equation,
maybe giving the brain a chance to go "offline" for a while and then shift into a
different mode that's evolved over time to help us perform memory processing.
Research points to REM sleep (the stage of rapid eye movement) as being the time
when issues are resolved and new information tucked away or discarded.
Just why sleep is so crucial for memories is still a mystery, although the mystery is
starting to be unraveled.
Another researcher in the area of sleep and memory, assistant professor of
psychology Jessica Payne of the University of Notre Dame, has found that a good
night's sleep can result in better inferential ability.
Evidence from her work suggests that when you sleep you learn the hierarchy of
information and the more sophisticated relationships. "Sleep is not only important for
your ability to remember," Payne says, "but it also helps you be more creative, find
more interesting and distant connections and be more innovative."
And while there's no public service initiative to promote the benefits of a good night's
sleep, the experts are calling for that to change.
Sleep deprivation has been linked to all kinds of troublesome conditions, not just
obesity (because it disrupts insulin regulation), but high blood pressure and heart
disease as well.
Beyond this, lack of sleep also has well documented ties to weakened immunity and
memory. Accidents are a well-known risk of driving or operating machinery when
people are routinely not getting the amount of sleep they need - in fact, drowsy
driving has been shown to be the same as driving drunk.
So what's the right amount of sleep to get? The amount varies from person to
person and needs change throughout our lives. Most adults require 7 to 8 hours each
night -newborns sleep 16-18 hours a day; preschooler's 10-12 hours a day; school
age and teens need about 9 hours a night.
One suggestion to see if you're getting the amount of sleep you need is to not set an
alarm on your days off. If you sleep for more hours than you do when you have to
get up for work you're probably not getting enough. To rectify this 'deficit' you need
to prioritize sleep over other activities for at least a week. That means not watching
late night TV or reading in bed until after midnight.
By doing this for at least a week you should see for yourself how things you do
every day get easier. And you might find some life saving health benefits as well, all
without pills and just as close as your bedroom.
About The Author
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If you're searching for a way to be
more creative, more innovative,
more on your game, an unexpected
bit of advice is to ensure you're
getting enough sleep.
An abundance of research now
proves that getting enough sleep
gives you the edge to help you
perform at your best, be more
creative, have stronger long-term
memory and preservation of
Where once sleeping was dismissed
as down time, research now knows
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