Sleep Can Benefit Memory

“Eat, Sleep, Be Happy, Repeat” How true it is! We live our lives in a constant state of “rush”. As a result of always trying to play catch up we avoid giving our bodies, and our brains what they need….Sleep! We spend about one-third of our lives sleeping. Sleep plays a critical role in how our bodies balance and regulate all of our systems such as circulation, growth, and our immune response. Sleep is crucial to the brain because blood circulates during sleep and it is this process of circulation that stimulates the hippocampus. The hippocampus is involved in helping to get information from short to long term memory. Research estimates that 30-40% of information is lost out of short-term memory. This is referred to as the forgetting curve. If you have the choice to sleep or stay up late getting work done for a talk or a test, the better choice is to sleep. Neuroplasticity is a process by which new synapses are formed and the neural network in the brain is strengthened. Rest and sleep play a significant role in the process of neuroplasticity. A lack of sleep has a negative effect on the hippocampus activity and thus on memory consolidation. Simply said, the brain has a stronger chance of taking in information and getting it into long term memory for better recall if the brain has had a chance to rest. The four different stages of sleep play a role in different types of memory consolidation.

It is also important to recognize that  research shows that the very objects that keep us so connected (ipads, computers and smartphones) are the very thing keeping us awake! The blue light emitted by these devices tells our brains that it is time to be awake and thus it interferes with the restful state our bodies need to induce sleep.

It is helpful to practice some good basics that will aid in getting a good night’s sleep:

  1. set a regular schedule for bedtime and try to stick to it
  2. avoid caffeine and other stimulants after late afternoon
  3. stay off all devices for 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime
  4. get plenty of exercise during the day
  5. try using relaxing music or stretching exercises if you have trouble falling asleep.

In summary, it is always a better practice to get a good night’s sleep than to stay up late accomplishing a task. The brain and body will be more equipped to take on the next day’s task if they have had a chance to rest and rejuvenate.

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