Can You Improve Your Memory While You Sleep?
This is a FACT.
It’s common knowledge that sleep is crucial to memory, focus and basic brain function. Now scientists are discovering that sleep and memory may be more connected than they realized.
The Discovery of Sleep Memory
Michigan State University conducted a “sleep memory” study using 250 participants. The results indicated that most of the participants showed improvement in their memory, though some subjects showed no change.
“There is substantial evidence that during sleep, your brain is processing information without your awareness and this ability may contribute to memory in a waking state,” said Kimberly Fenn, assistant professor of psychology at MSU.
63% of Americans do not get enough sleep throughout the week.
Complex tasks may be learned or reinforced while you sleep. Researchers at Northwestern University found that the musicians were more proficient at playing one of two pieces learned if it was played again while they napped.
Their brain activity was recorded with an EEG during slow-wave sleep. This stage is pivotal to creating permanent memories.
Ken Paller, professor of psychology, explained, “External stimulation during sleep can influence a complex skill.” Further research could shed light on the utilization of sleep and memory to reinforce behaviors and habits.
Co-author, Paul Reber, associate professor of psychology is quick to point out, “The critical difference is that our research shows that memory is strengthened for something you’ve already learned…rather than learning something new. We’re talking about enhancing an existing memory by re-activating information recently acquired.”
Boost Creativity with Sleep
Jessica D. Payne of the University of Notre Dame and Elizabeth A Kensinger of Boston College feel sleep may also get the creative juices flowing. In their study they discovered that the human brain isn’t just cementing memories – it is actually organizing them, keeping the information it deems most important.
Payne further explained, “In our fast-paced society, one of the first things to go is our sleep. I think that’s based on a profound misunderstanding that the sleeping brain isn’t doing anything.
I give myself an eight-hour sleep opportunity every night. We can get away with less sleep, but it has a profound effect on our cognitive abilities.”
Other sleep studies confirm this new sleep and memory method, providing further evidence that while we sleep we retain information learned.
“We suspected from previous work that sleep had a role to play in the reorganization of new memories, but this is the first time we’ve really been able to observe it in action, and understand the importance of spindle activity [short bursts of brain activity during sleep] in the process,” said Professor Gareth Gaskell about their findings in a joint study between the University of York and Harvard Medical School.
Their research showed that the brain is capable of not only learning and reorganizing incoming data, but also connecting that data to prior knowledge and memories.
Sleep – Things Are Still Getting Done!
While you sleep, your brain is obviously busy. Sorting through data, filtering out the fluff, keeping the stuff you might need later, neatening things up and even stimulating your creativity.
Sleep also affects our metabolism and hormone balance.
In a study conducted by the University of Chicago, researchers discovered that chronic sleep deprivation speeds up the aging process and increases your risk of age-related illness and disease such as diabetes, heart disease and memory loss. Not getting enough sleep makes your body less efficient at processing carbohydrates, which can lead to insulin resistance.
The scientific community is rapidly becoming convinced that adequate sleep is just as important as proper nutrition and regular exercise.
So take a nap…you never know what you might accomplish!