A sweet slumber can fix anything whether it’s a bad day or a gnarly headache. Sleep and dreams seem like they can take you to a whole another realm because they can be so mysterious, literally and figuratively. Scientists have been researching sleep since the 1920s and there have been some noticeable results.
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One thing’s for sure, a good night’s sleep can make you feel active and energetic but it can also affect the quality of your memory. during sleep, memories are consolidated and without good sleep, this can impact the function of the brain as well as the work of amygdalae. Amygdalae may sound like a name of a fungus but they’re actually almond-sized clusters of nuclei in the brains’ temporal lobes. Their job is to consolidate memories for long-term learning as well as storing memories that are associated with strong emotions.
Sleep has very obvious benefits that we have known for a long time now. What we don’t know is how sleep and memory are directly related. A study by the National Academy of Sciences suggests that even one night of bad sleep can cause a metabolic waste called beta-amyloid to accumulate in the brain as well as amygdalae. The amygdalae actually control a lot more than just memories, it also regulates the ability to learn.
The exact processes of learning and forming a memory is not known. Although, there are a few terms that are important to understand in order to comprehend the relationship between sleep and memory. The first one is acquisition which refers to learning or experiencing something new. this process usually happens when you’re awake.
The next one is consolidation which is the process that turns short term memories into long term memories or in other words it makes them stick into your brain. Consolidation happens when you are asleep as your brain can not do this it is awake. When you are awake, the brain has to react to other stimuli and encode new memories.
When you sleep your brain does not have to worry about other stimuli. This gives the brain optimal conditions to consolidate a memory. The process which is the last process is a pretty simple one. It is free calling which is just accessing the information which has been stored in your brain after all the other processes have been done.
How does the brain choose which memories to store? Scientists use a term called “cherry-picking” for the selection of memories. It is believed that different methods are used by the hippocampus to store memories. The hippocampus stores unique episodic memories, which are long-term memories that involve previous experiences along with knowledge of the place, time and associated emotions.
On the other hand, the neocortex stores semantic memories which include the knowledge of words, numbers, and concepts. during the third stage of sleep, deep sleep, the short term memories in the hippocampus made during the day are formed into long term memories in the neocortex.
The transfer of memories is very complex and there are many theories about how sleep and memory are linked. But this research about memory consolidation explains why those with Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia have abnormal sleep patterns. And consequently why they have trouble forming memories.
It seems like there are a lot of holes in our knowledge of sleep and memory, but then again the brain is so complex and there isn’t just one process happening at a time. The brain is like a city with multiple confusing roads, so obviously it’ll take time to understand how this works. Until then, just stick to a regular sleep schedule so you can be well-rested and ready to make new memories every day.
Until Next Time,
Team Doctor ASKY!