Improved memory and recall: As research advances, we’ve learned sleep plays a critical goal in the formation and maintenance of higher brains functions. Infants, for example, spend 12 to 14 hours sleeping, with fully half of that in REM (Rapid Eye Movement) or dream sleep. Depriving adults of sleep for prolonged periods of time provokes severe cognitive impairment, with symptoms resembling psychosis.
Not only is sleep vital for cognitive functionality, but quality rest makes for improved memory and recall. Consider the following scenario: It’s December, and you’re attending a holiday party. In a sea of coworkers and their families, you’re introduced to your new boss’s spouse and kids. You bump into her the next morning, and you say how nice it was to meet — quick, what are their names? Researchers say your ability to pluck them out of your memory on command has a lot to do with how much, and how well, you slept the night before. After the late night (and the cocktails you downed to stomach the awkward coworker dance party it entailed) your rest was not up to par.
During wakefulness, your adult brain is a discriminating sponge, absorbing new information and prioritizing data. To make sense of this titanic inflow, your brain needs downtime for filing and storage. While you sleep, your brain figures out where to put everything, moving
data locked in the hippocampus where short-term memories are stored, to the
cortex, the part of the brain holding longer-term memories. Sleep optimizes
these functions – it’s critical to the steps associated with learning and
the acquisition phase, the consolidation phase (sorting
what’s important and what’s not), and the recall phase (being able to
consciously draw on what was stored—the names of important people you’ve met at
a holiday party, for example).
Improved creativity: It’s long been treated as an anecdotal standard asserted by scientists and artists alike that sleep enhances creativity and creative thought. An unusual study conducted in Europe in 2012 found support for the notion that conscious creative thinking could be enhanced by tricking the brain into thinking along a more freely associative dream-like state. And as sleep researcher Dr. Sara Mednick related in National Geographic, study participants who rested with REM sleep were better able to make creative connections between unrelated words and concepts.
At the top of your game: If you’re the athletic type, good news: Not only does sleep promote muscle recovery, but it also reinforces muscle memory. Moreover, a study published in Sleep Research Society’s Sleep showed an average faster sprint-time, increased shooting accuracy, plus overall improved physical wellbeing after Stanford University basketball players extended their nightly slumber for a period of 5-7 weeks. On the flip side, if you’re not getting enough sleep, studies show you risk delayed reaction times. To further stack your odds while you snooze, a Stanford/Akita University study found that there’s a possibility that athletes who opt for a high rebound (a.k.a. breathable) mattress may see improved athletic performance.
More sleep, more svelte: For years, researchers have postulated that losing sleep predisposes people to weight gain. A 2006 study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology found that adults who sleep less than five or six hours a night are at greater risk for being overweight. As research into the relationship between the body’s response to the benefits of sleep have advanced, scientists have finally started to zero in on the cause.
A study released by the National Academy of Sciences found that while sleep-deprived people tended to burn more calories a day, their bodies pushed them to overcompensate for the loss by overeating. Moreover, they tended to favor fatty and high-carbohydrate foods rather than healthier alternatives. Intriguingly, researchers also found that lack of sleep alters the biology of fat cells, making them less sensitive to fat-burning insulin, a change associated with diabetes and obesity.