The Secrets of Sleep

Learnt a lot about sleep from this recent National Geographic article.

most notably this little bit:

The predominant theory of sleep is that the brain demands it. This idea derives in part from common sense—whose head doesn’t feel clearer after a good night’s sleep? But the trick is to confirm this assumption with real data. How does sleeping help the brain? The answer may depend on what kind of sleep you are talking about. Recently, researchers at Harvard led by Robert Stickgold tested undergraduates on various aptitude tests, allowed them to nap, then tested them again. They found that those who had engaged in REM sleep subsequently performed better in pattern recognition tasks, such as grammar, while those who slept deeply were better at memorization. Other researchers have found that the sleeping brain appears to repeat a pattern of neuron firing that occurred while the subject was recently awake, as if in sleep the brain were trying to commit to long-term memory what it had learned that day.

Such studies suggest that memory consolidation may be one function of sleep. Giulio Tononi, a noted sleep researcher at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, published an interesting twist on this theory a few years ago: His study showed that the sleeping brain seems to weed out redundant or unnecessary synapses or connections. So the purpose of sleep may be to help us remember what’s important, by letting us forget what’s not.

I mean, it’s no real surprise, having very little sleep does affect my short term and long term memory.  But I’m amazed that there’s been so little research done into the science of sleeping.

I guess it’s another thing that I’ll have to ask Jesus when I’m up in heaven with Him.


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