It’s should come as no surprise that the CDC has declared insufficient sleep as a public health epidemic. After conducting various surveys and polls, their research has shown that approximately 37% of Americans are sleeping less than 7 hours each night!
One important thing their research didn’t show though was how lack of sleep affects our brains. Many of us know that sleep is important and vital for our health but many don’t know that it also has an impact on our brain.
According to a study published in Neurology, years of sleep difficulties have been linked with a brain that shrinks over time. Whether or not lack of sleep causes the shrinkage of the brain or vice versa is not entirely known.
What we do know though is that our brain does not shut down while we are sleeping. While asleep our brains are still just as active, or more, as when we are awake.
Here are 5 things our brains do while we are asleep:
Helps Us Make Decisions
According to a new study in Current Biology, our brains are anything but asleep when we hit the pillow. For example, we can pick out distinct sounds while we are asleep such as our name or alarm clock versus louder noises that have no relevance.
In the study, the researchers found that the “sleeping brain can process spoken words in a task-dependent manner.” Basically, they found that we can still process incoming stimuli to a certain extent!
Create New Memories and Store Older Ones
Even while you’re asleep, your brain is booming with action! In addition to creating new memories while you’re sleeping, it also consolidates older ones and links them with recent memories. This occurs both during your non-REM and REM stage of sleeping.
This is why sleep is essential for cementing important information! Getting quality sleep before you are about to learn something new helps to prepare your brain for forming new memories. And sleeping after you’ve learned new material helps to store the information.
According to a study conducted at the University of California at Berkley, people are 33% more likely to “make connections between seemingly distantly related ideas” upon waking. While we are asleep, our brain can make unusual connections that most likely wouldn’t occur while we are awake. So, the next time you need to come up with a great idea, head to sleep!
More sleep = less toxins. If we don’t get enough quality sleep, our brains don’t have enough time to flush out toxins. Overtime, the buildup of these toxins could lead to diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Learn and Remember Motor Tasks
When we cycle through REM stage of sleep, our brain transfers short-term memories that are stored in the motor cortex to the temporal lobe. Through this transfer, our short-term memories become long-term memories. Motor activities such as dancing, swimming, swinging a baseball, etc. become more automatic as a result.
You can find the original article “5 Amazing Things Your Brain Does While You Sleep” over on Huffington Post.