“One NASA study showed that a 26-minute nap improved a pilot’s performance by more than 34%. Another study showed that a 45-minute nap produced a similar boost in cognitive performance, lasting more than six hours,” as published in the book, Brain Rules, by John Medina.
Far from being “unproductive” when you are asleep, sleeping helps restore and build the body, by building up a healthy immune system and balancing appetites by regulating ghrelin and leptin hormones. The brain also does many things, including boosting your brain, repairing your body and even making decisions.
Sleep Consolidates Memories and Fortifies Learning
Learning leads to the formation of new dentritic spines, tiny structures that project from the end of nerve cells and pass electric signals between neurons. These tiny structures are important for improving memory. Sleeping after learning then helps neurons form very specific connections on dendritic branches, that strengthens connections between brain cells and enhances long-term memory. Sleep is important for the brain and for knowledge consolidation.
In a research by a group of scientists, that was published in the Journal, Science, they studied the brains of mice to see what happened while they were sleeping. The research revealed that the mice that were left to sleep, after learning, had more new dendritic spines, compared to those who were kept awake after learning.
Professor Wen-Biao Gan, of New York University, said, “We have shown how sleep helps neurons form very specific connections on dendritic branches that may facilitate long-term memory. Different types of learning form synapses on different branches of the same neurons, suggesting that learning causes very specific structural changes in the brain.”
Sleep Clears out Toxins
A good night’s rest can literally clear the mind. In a National Institute Hospital-funded study using mice, researchers showed that the space between brain cells increases during sleep, thereby allowing the brain to flush out toxins that have been building up during waking hours.
The results from the study are published in the Journal, Science, and it revealed that during sleep, the glymphatic system opens, thereby letting fluid flow rapidly through the brain. When electrodes were inserted into the brain, to directly measure the space between brain cells, it was found that the space inside the brains increased by 60% when the mice were asleep or anesthetized.
Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, and a leader of the study, said, “Sleep changes the cellular structure of the brain. (The) space between brain cells change(s) greatly between conscious and unconscious states. We need sleep, it clears up the brain.”
Without sufficient sleep, the brain does not have enough time to clear out the toxins, and can accelerate neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.
Sleep Improves Creativity
As the mind is in an unconscious resting state, it can make new connections that may not be possible to make in a waking state.
A study conducted by the University of California at Berkeley, and released in 2007, revealed that sleep encourages unusual connections in the brain, which can potentially lead to the birth of new ideas upon waking. After sleeping, people are 33% more likely to make connections between seemingly polarised related ideas.
Other health benefits of getting that additional sleep include lowering stress, improving memory and maintaining a healthy weight. If you think you can get away with less sleep, studies have shown that sleep deprivation affects your mood, ability to focus and access to higher-level brain functions for subsequent days, and the negative effects of sleep deprivation are so great that people who are drunk outperform those lacking sleep. Adults require seven to nine of sleep each night. Are you getting sufficient sleep every night?
Daily Mail | A good night’s sleep really DOES boost your brain: Getting shut eye helps builds nerve cells linked with learning
National Institutes of Health | Brain may flush out toxins during sleep
news.com.au | Five amazing things your brain does while you sleep
newser | Experts Figure Out Exactly How Much Sleep You Need
National Sleep Foundation | What Happens When You Sleep?
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