Posts tagged sleep benefits
The pressures of college life can take a toll on our habits. Some students suffer through late nights in order to cram for tomorrow’s big test. Others are beholden to their class schedule, waking up and going to sleep at different times of the day. This kind of lifestyle leads to irregular sleep patterns, which some researchers are saying holds negative effects.
To understand the importance of our sleep patterns, we have to look at circadian rhythms. Our circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that react to your body’s natural internal clock. Effectively, these rhythms dictate several aspects of our body. Mainly, they change when we are ready to go to sleep and when we are most alert.
Normally, circadian rhythms regulate what time we wake up and go to sleep. This is based on the amount of light in our given environment. When the sun rises we wake up, and when it’s dark, our body is ready to go to sleep. However, after a thorough analysis of sleep patterns, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that a disruption of these rhythms affects the academic performance of students.
Factoring in Irregular Sleep
For this study, the Brigham and Women’s Hospital gathered 61 full-time undergraduates from Harvard College. The participants used sleep diaries to record their activities. The main factors the team was looking for include the following:
- Sleep Regularity
- Sleep Duration
- Quality of Sleep
- Sleep-Wake Times
- Academic Performance
“Our results indicate that going to sleep and waking up at approximately the same time is as important as the number of hours one sleeps,” stated Andrew J. K. Phillips, Ph.D., biophysicist at the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and lead author on the paper. “Sleep regularity is a potentially important and modifiable factor independent from sleep duration,” Phillips said.
“We found that the body clock was shifted nearly three hours later in students with irregular schedules as compared to those who slept at more consistent times each night, stated Charles A. Czeisler, Ph.D., MD, Director of the Sleep Health Institute at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and senior author on the paper.
“For the students whose sleep and wake times were inconsistent, classes and exams that were scheduled for 9 a.m. were, therefore, occurring at 6 am according to their body clock, at a time when performance is impaired. Ironically, they didn’t save any time because, in the end, they slept just as much as those on a more regular schedule,” continued Czeisler.
Too many changes to the circadian clock can disrupt the body. The process takes some time to adjust to the new schedule of students. As a reaction, the melatonin that your body needs to wake releases much later.
“Regular sleepers got significantly higher light levels during the daytime, and significantly lower light levels at night than irregular sleepers who slept more during daytime hours and less during nighttime hours.”
Researchers suggest that fixing irregular sleep requires that students are exposed to more natural light and avoid using electronic devices at night. They should also stick to a better schedule for when to go to bed and wake up.
As children, our parents always told to go to sleep early and that getting enough rest is good for the body. We know that sleep is good for the body, but have you ever wondered how? Does better sleep mean better benefits for the body? Well, deep sleep can help with heart health, your immune system, and so much more. One aspect of deep sleep, in particular, helps our learning efficiency. It is possible for this process to be interrupted. In a recent study by researchers at the University of Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, they developed a non-invasive method for affecting deep sleep in humans.
Receiving Better Sleep Is Important
A lack of sleep does more than just make you sluggish and tired throughout the day. The nerve cells in our body, called synapses, remain active as we receive information from the environment around us. Once we go to sleep, those active synapses return to normal. However, if we do not receive proper rest, those nerve cells stay active and new information becomes harder to process. Sleep deprivation and other disorders impede your ability to retain new information. This malfunction in your ability to learn can affect how your mind operates.
How Researchers Manipulated the Brain
“We have developed a method that lets us reduce the sleep depth in a certain part of the brain and therefore prove the causal connection between deep sleep and learning efficiency,” says Reto Huber professor at the University Children’s Hospital Zurich and of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at UZH.
The study tested several subjects, six women, and seven men. Each of the subjects performed tasks that required them to master three different motoric tasks through finger movements. Once each day ended, the subjects went to sleep. During the first night, they were allowed to sleep uninterrupted. However, after the second night, the experiment truly began. Unbeknownst to the patients, the researchers manipulated the motor cortex using acoustic stimulation.
The effect of the manipulation was not apparent at first. During the morning, the subject performed the motoric tasks and finger movements as usual. As the day went on, however, the subjects made more and more mistakes. This is a contrast compared to the first day of testing, where the patients performed positively. After receiving better sleep again, the subjects exhibited the same results as the first day.
Nicole Wenderoth, professor in the Department of Health Sciences and Technology at the ETH Zurich, explains that “In the strongly excited region of the brain, learning efficiency was saturated and could no longer be changed, which inhibited the learning of motor skills.”
What We Can Learn From This Study
This study is another example of why sleep health and deep sleep is necessary. Brain disorders could affect sleep the same way the researchers did. Huber explains that “Many diseases manifest in sleep as well, such as epilepsy. Using the new method, we hope to be able to manipulate those specific brain regions that are directly connected with the disease.”
The stresses of life often weigh on our minds. What is even worse is that they travel with us from work and to our homes. Certain factors influence how much stress we deal with on a daily basis. It’s important to not let your mental health deteriorate. Two of these factors are in your control. That includes your sleep health and daily exercise.
Maintaining Your Sleep Health With Exercise
Great exercise leads to better sleep and good sleep health leads to less stress. With that in mind, you have to remember the following:
- Go to bed at the same time every night.
- Make sure you sleep at least 7 to 8 hours a day.
- Regulate your time in bed to sleeping only.
- Make sure your bed is comfortable and your room is relaxing enough to sleep.
- Try not to eat before going to sleep.
These steps will help keep the body recharged and relaxed, which helps you avoid stress. However, sometimes it is not so easy to sleep. That’s why exercise is recommended as well because it exerts the body. After a rigorous workout, your body will crave rest, making falling asleep easier.
Avoid Taking Stress With You
In a recent study by the University of Florida, they found that people were more likely to bring stress from work into their homes. “Research shows employees who are mistreated at work are likely to engage in similar behaviors at home,” said University of Central Florida’s College of Business management professor Shannon Taylor, who teamed up with researchers from Illinois and Wisconsin for the study.
Without sleep and exercise, their body could not properly regulate their behavior. They found that people who moved less than 7,000 steps were more likely to carry stress with them than those who moved more than 10,000 steps a day.
Taylor concludes that “The study gives us a new perspective on the importance of getting an adequate amount of sleep and exercise. It’s not just good for you, it’s good for your spouse, too.”
The wonders of sleep are amazing. More and more studies are proving just how necessary it is to the body’s recovery. We have talked before about what happens when you don’t sleep. Now, it’s time to focus on one of the many sleep benefits that exist. Researchers have found that sleep helps people deal with traumatic experiences. Find out how this works and what scientists have learned.
Processing Stress and Trauma
It is an unfortunate reality that people go through traumatic experiences. Whether it’s soldiers in war or a victim of a crime, something drastic can happen to anyone. There are many methods to dealing with stress disorders like posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but is sleeping one of them?
This is the very question on the minds of the scientists at the University of Zurich. They conducted a study, which tested two groups of people. Both groups watched a distressing film. One group was allowed to sleep that very night, while the other group remained awake.
Here’s what they found: “Our results reveal that people who slept after the film had fewer and less distressing recurring emotional memories than those who were awake,” says Birgit Kleim, the first author from the University of Zurich.
This positive impact on stressful events is because sleep helps us understand and process these memories. This makes our emotions to these events less relevant, less impactful. At least, this is the theory that the researchers have.
Using These Sleep Benefits for Recovery
Is sleep the ultimate answer to recovering from trauma and PTSD? We don’t know. For now, all signs say that sleeping helps. However, this study is limited. It doesn’t test patients with actual traumatic experiences, it simulates them.
We do know that no matter what, sleep is necessary. According to Kleim, “Our approach offers an important non-invasive alternative to the current attempts to erase traumatic memories or treat them with medication.” If more research is done, this can lead to safer methods of dealing with stress.
A new study has made a revealing discovery. It seems that certain parts of the brain interact with one another to improve both your memory and recollection during sleep. This is the first time that scientists have ever found definitive proof of the connection between sleep and improved memory.
Improved Memory and the Hippocampus/Cortex Connection
The recent study was performed by the scientists at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Biology. Previous studies have been done, and theories have been put forth, about the how the brain works to preserve memory. Scientists believed that improved memory is formed in the hippocampus, and then moved to the cortex for long-term storage. However, until this new study, researchers have never proven their hypothesis.
The scientists at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Biology set out to prove these theories about how the brain operates. Their first step was to record the activity of both the hippocampus and cortex during sleep. They observed that when the hippocampus emitted sharp wave-ripples, the cortex reacted with delta waves and spindles.
However, the researchers needed further proof. The next step involved training rats to memorize identical objects and their positions. They moved one of the objects the next day to test whether the rats could conclude which one. The rats that had spent 20 minutes in the room on the first day passed the test, while those that had been there for only three minutes failed. Similar results were reflected in the interaction between the hippocampus and the cortex during sleep after the first day of testing.
The researchers’ next test involved using a system to monitor and trigger the interactions between the two sections of the brain. Using the rats who failed the test before, the system provided significant results. Not only did the rats pass the test, but the scientists were able to prove that the process that happens between the hippocampus and cortex during sleep leads to an improved memory.
This research has the potential to unravel the mysteries and hopefully help people with certain memory disorders. While the system the scientists used has yet to be tested on humans due to ethical concerns, they hope further research will clear up all the facts about the relationship between the hippocampus and cortex.