following on with the theme that sleep is far more important than many of us realise. Here’s an analysis of things we can do better asleep than when we’re awake.
Essentially there seem to be three main areas that we do better asleep:
- Forming accurate memories
- Heal from infection
- Deal with stress
Lets summarise each area:
Forming accurate memories
Most neuroscientists agree that sleep is when we organize memories for long-term storage. People whose sleep is disturbed after studying have far more imperfect recall than people who get a good eight hours of shuteye. But a study published a couple of weeks ago shows that you can use simple memory reinforcement techniques while you’re sleeping that will make your recall better than average.
Heal from infection
We don’t just need sleep to improve our minds – we need it to heal our bodies. Physiologist Marc Opp argues that it’s possible that sleep is part of our immune system, and that we may have evolved sleep alongside our other bodily defenses against infection. In fact, our ability to dream appears to be connected at a molecular level to our healing abilities. When researchers reduce the levels of proteins used in healing wounds and fighting infection, it also reduces REM sleep. Raising the levels of those same proteins causes people to dream more. So when you go to bed with a cold and wake up feeling better after a night of weird dreams – well, there’s a good reason for that.
Deal with stress
Dreaming also appears to be one of the main ways we maintain emotional equilibrium. Sleeping appears to organize our emotions in the same way it organizes and solidifies memories. Researchers report that sleep helps people recognize other people’s emotional states, maintain calm in the face of difficult situations, and even develop feelings of trust more easily.