Millions of miles of nerve fibers and 100 billion neurons and make our brain the super highway of our bodies. Lightning fast neuronal processes ensure that we can deal with most everyday cognitive tasks quickly and effectively. There are many ways to keep ourselves mentally fit: studying and problem solving, proper diet, exercise—and quality sleep!
The exact details of the processes that take place in our brain at night is not entirely understood. However, one thing is certain: a good night's sleep is extremely important for our mental health. You have probably noticed the feeling of forgetfulness or “foggy brain” when you’re sleep deprived. And studies have shown that our minds regenerate and reinforce learning while we sleep.
Sleeping essentially closes the door to stimulation by new sensations, which frees up capacity to build memory function. One clinical study asked participants to memorize certain facts, and the group that was allowed to sleep before the recall exam were much better at remembering what they learned than the group that did not sleep before the exam. Research done at the University of Berkeley revealed that students who skimp on sleep reduce their ability to learn new information by as much as 40 percent. And scientists from the Max Planck-Institute have demonstrated that infants and toddlers re-establish and connect neurons at a much higher rate during sleep.
The experiences we have during the day are solidified into knowledge during the night. The extent to which certain stages of sleep are responsible for various types of memory content continues to be explored. It seems that deep sleep is particularly important for our declarative or knowledge memory. General concepts, facts and life experiences are stored in this part of our long-term memory. Restless sleep at night therefore negatively impacts our knowledge storage.
If you want to boost the power of your brain and memory, pay attention to your sleep! In the same way you seek out the perfect spot to settle in with a good book, you want to create a serene sleep sanctuary. In addition to darkness and silence, a comfortable and supportive bed helps nurture deep sleep. Sleep well and sleep smarter!