Getting plenty of deep, relaxing sleep is essential for good overall health. Sleep allows the body to rest and recover from the day’s activities. It helps injuries heal faster, strengthens the immune system, and sharpens reflexes. People have known all of this for centuries. But as scientists study the sleep process more and more, they are finding that it is crucial for many other important things. One of the most vital is its role in helping us remember. That’s why there is a clear connection between sleep deprivation and memory issues.
How Memory Works
Memories come in different types. Some of them are fact-based, such as recalling your phone number or address. Others have to do with experiences, such as remembering your first kiss or the day you graduated high school. Still others relate to certain skills, like playing a guitar or driving a car.
For anything to be committed to memory, however, three steps must take place in the brain:
- Acquisition – new knowledge or sensory data must enter the mind
- Consolidation – the recollection becomes established in the brain
- Recall – the ability to access the memory in the future is created
Researchers have conducted numerous studies of these processes. One of the results of this work is the discovery that step two occurs primarily when a person sleeps. For example, let’s say that you have an event-filled day, with all kinds of notable things happening. Provided that you get a good night’s sleep afterwards, you will probably recall most or nearly all of the events that occurred the previous day. On the other hand, if you sleep poorly, your recollection will be spotty, with gaps, and you’ll have trouble remembering specific details.
What Parts of the Brain Are Involved?
Scientists are a long way from fully understanding any aspect of how the human brain functions. Many of its workings are still shrouded in mystery. However, they believe that two parts of it govern memory. One is the hippocampus, which is similar to the RAM in your computer, in that it acts as a short-term supply depot for new memories. The other is the neocortex, where those memories are transferred to for long-term storage.
The hippocampus goes through a process where it transfers fresh recollections to the neocortex. This occurs primarily during the sleeping hours, so that poor or insufficient sleep short-circuits the mechanism. The result is the sort of hazy recollection we often have of things that occurred in the recent past, when those memories haven’t been fully absorbed by the neocortex.
The Stages of Sleep
Continuing research is revealing even more insight into how sleep and memory are tied in with each other. For example, evidence indicates that some recollections are processed during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, when we are dreaming. Others are set in place during that very deep portion of sleep when brain waves slow down.
The Bottom Line
It doesn’t take a degree in medicine to understand that getting enough sleep is vital to not only keeping your memory strong but also to every aspect of staying mentally and physically sharp. Unfortunately, many of us have trouble getting the sleep that we need. Here are some general tips that physicians say can help all of us to get the quality snooze time that we need:
- Go to sleep and get up at the same time every day.
- Exercise regularly, but not too soon before going to sleep. Experts say that you should not exercise within three hours of your bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine and nicotine before going to bed.
- Take some time to relax and unwind before bed. Read a book, take a bath, or maybe drink some herbal tea.
- Keep the bedroom cool, comfortable, and as dark as possible.
One thing that can certainly help your sleep is a good sleep surface. Here at Parklane Mattresses, our staff members are experts in helping you to find the products you need to make your resting hours as refreshing as possible. Don’t suffer from sleep deprivation and memory problems; contact us today.