Sleeping well improves memory? Who hasn’t had problems concentrating at work after a poor night’s sleep? In 2013, a study showed that this common complaint among those who slept poorly wasn’t subjective, but a true reality: People who don’t get the reparative sleep at night that they need and those who suffer from some type of insomnia show memory and concentration problems. So, is it true that sleeping well improves memory?
Illnesses that cause memory loss or memory problems like Alzheimer’s or schizophrenia tend to be accompanied by sleep disorders or insomnia. Scientists continue to argue about if sleep deprivation is related memory problems. What came first, the chicken or the egg?
Recovery sleep has turned into one of the main recommendations for maintaining and enjoying good memory. In the last few years, more and more people have begun to talk about the benefits that a good night’s sleep can offer us. Some of the conclusions of these studies have been:
1. Sleeping well improves concentration.
2. It can help you get better grades.
3. Sleeping well helps you be more creative.
4. It combats depression
5. It helps you maintain a healthy weight.
6. It facilitated the oxygenation of the cells because breathing slows down while we sleep.
7. It protects the heart.
8. Sleeping well strengthens the immune system
9. Increases life span.
There’s no doubt that a good rest is important, but we still don’t know the mechanisms behind this phenomenon. A few days ago, a team of researchers at Bristol’s Center for Synaptic Plasticity at the University of Bristol have brought to light new evidence about the mechanisms that explain why sleeping well improves memory. The basic research study provides new keys to understanding how and why we are able to learn while we sleep.
In the investigation, the team lead by Dr. Mellor saw how some of the brain activity patterns that were produced during the day repeat themselves faster at night. This repetition takes place in the hippocampus (the brain structure related to memory), which strengthens neural connections between active nerve cells, which is essential for consolidating new memories and skills. The study also looked at the repeated diurnal patterns of brain activity during sleep depended on the emotional state that the subject had while they were learning.
According to the investigators, this is very important and may have practical implications for the design. For example, new teaching strategies that keep the student’s emotional state in mind to facilitate learning and memory.
Hopefully, this study brings to light why there is a relationship between sleep and memory. Now it’s our turn to make sure we get a good night’s sleep.
Tips For Sleeping Better and Improving Memory
1. Exercise. You don’t need to spend all day at the gym, but doing some type of exercise, like walking or jogging for 20-30 minutes a day. With a little bit of exercise, we’ll fall asleep quicker and sleep better.
2. Keep a routine. It’s important to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day.
3. Don’t overdo caffeinated beverages during the day. Try to avoid coffee and soda in the afternoon. Try some decaffeinated tea.
4. Drink less alcohol. Alcohol doesn’t help us sleep well. Even though it helps us fall asleep by depressing our nervous system, it also makes us wake up more at night. Summary: We sleep poorly.
5. Only use the bed for sleeping (or sex). We should try to avoid doing anything else in our beds, like reading, watching movies, playing on our phones or tablets… All of these things disturb our sleep patterns.
Sharp-Wave Ripples Orchestrate the Induction of Synaptic Plasticity during Reactivation of Place Cell Firing Patterns in the Hippocampus” by Sadowski, JHLP, Jones, MW and Mellor, JR in Cell Reports. Published online January 19 2016 doi:10.1016/j.celrep.2016.01.061
Memory trace replay: the shaping of memory consolidation by neuromodulation by Atherton, LA, Dupret, D & Mellor, JR (2015) in Trends in Neuroscience. 38, 560-70.