Tempted to ditch a good night’s sleep and finish that essay you have been putting off for weeks? New research shows that sleep is crucial to a good memory and learning, so although pulling an all-nighter may seem like a good idea, it is detrimental to your future studies.
A recent study has shown that sleep is essential for resetting our brain’s connectivity that occurs during our waking hours. This process allows our brain to adapt to our surroundings, proving that sleep is not just for boosting energy levels, but is crucial for ensuring that we retain as much information as possible from each day.
Scientists found that the loss of just one night’s sleep impacted on the brain’s natural reset mechanism, meaning that the neurons in the brain become muddled with the day’s electrical activity, making it difficult to process new memories. Throughout the day our brains become saturated with information and the only way of consolidating this new information is by decreasing our brain’s activity during sleep.
Psychiatrist Christoph Nissen, who led the study at the University of Freiburg and recorded the results in the journal Nature Communications, completed a series of tests on participants aged 19 to 25, with some being allowed a good night’s sleep and others being deprived of it. The tests showed that the brains of those who were sleep-deprived were in a more excitable state, as their neurons were less resistant to magnetic pulses, making it easier to create a muscle response in the participant. However, it was found that it was harder to get those who were sleep-deprived to recall memories as their neurons were much more chaotic than in those who had had a good night’s sleep, proving that sleep is essential for mentally recording information.
One experiment undertaken by Nissen involved stimulating the brain to mirror how neurons function when memories are being noted.
He discovered it was more challenging to get the neurons to respond in people who did not get enough sleep, proving that the ability to write memories decreases with less sleep.
Nissen said: “This work shows us that sleep is a highly active brain process and not a waste of time. It is required for healthy brain function” and he believes that the findings may also be a breakthrough for treating people with mental health disorders in the future.