Getting Sleep Helps Memory
A new study by Gareth Gaskell, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of York, reveals that while a person is sleeping, the information and experiences during waking moments are consolidated into the brain and are stored as memories. As a result of this, the study group was able to conclude that individuals are better at learning new things when they have had a good night’s sleep.
The research also reveals that organization of what one has learned throughout the day is conducted during sleep. Additionally, long-time memories are concretized when one is also asleep. Dr. Gaskell explains that all of the knowledge that we obtain must be stored in the proper area of the brain and this organization happens when a person is sleeping. Sleep disorders disturb people from getting quality sleep and, thus, produce poor memory and slow understanding of ideas and concepts.
The study by Dr. Gaskell and his associates looked at how people can be taught new made-up words such as the word “cathedruke”. The subjects were observed on how they made use of the word in their daily conversations. The researchers observed whether their assimilation of the word slowed when given similar identifying words like “cathedral”. The study uncovered that integration of new knowledge is linked to the intermittent outbursts of brain activity as one is going into deeper sleep. This activity is called sleep spindle. The hippocampus, which is the deep memory storage in the brain, works together with the neocortex. The neocortex is the one responsible for higher brain functions like language and thought.
As proven by the study, the brain does the storing of memories where they should be and organizing them as well. Once a person is awake, these memories fade into the subconscious. It is shown here that people that have sleep disorders tend to be forgetful about events and faces. They also have a hard time remembering names.
Rebecca Spencer, Ph.D., a psychology professor at University of Massachusetts Amherst, researched on how sleep can affect in the preservation of memory for both negative and positive situations. She noted that negative memories are taken as negative memories but not for positive ones. Sleep can assist in storing happy memories including how happy you felt on that event.
Dr. Spencer also says that the emotions related to negative happenings can be easily remembered because such an event is perceived not to happen again. This is the reason why a child who got hurt by placing his hand over a hot stove plate will remember not to do it again due to the emotion connected to it in his memory. Such a memory is immediately processed by the brain and stored during sleep.
Sleep is not only needed for our minds but also for the body. People who are sufferers of sleep disorders like insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome would eventually have a host of health problems. Susceptibility to a stroke, diabetes, obesity and depression and heart ailments to name a few are the hazards of not getting enough sleep. With this study, it further strengthens the fact that our brains need to do some work when we are sleeping and one of these is to organize and store experiences and learning into a memory then place them where it belongs. Those with sleep disorders must seek medical attention before any serious physical or brain problems occur. If you think that you may have a sleep disorder, contact a local sleep specialist for a consultation.