Daniel Martin from the UK’s Daily Mail brings us this interesting little scientific discovery:
If you’re facing a problem you can’t get your head around, you might be told to sleep on it. Now scientists have shown that the advice is more than just an old wives’ tale.
Apparently sleep strengthens the memory and helps the brain extract themes and rules from the masses of information we soak up during the day.
Lead researcher Bob Stickgold, professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School, said: “We’re not just stabilizing memories during sleep. We’re extracting the meaning.
“Sleep helps us extract rules from our experiences. It’s like knowing the difference between dogs and cats, even if it’s hard to explain.”
The US research team studied how well participants remembered connections between words and symbols. They compared how they fared if they had had a sleep between seeing the words and having the test, and if they had not slept.
They found that people were better able to recall lists of related words after a night’s sleep than after the same time spent awake during the day.
Prof Stickgold presented his findings, which were reported in Thursday’s edition of New Scientist, at a meeting of the Science Network in California last week.
Other recent studies have demonstrated the benefits of sleep.
- Last year it was shown that taking a daytime nap helped boost the memory and make it easier to recall important facts.
- Another study showed that men’s brainpower can be reduced if they share a bed, because their sleep is more disturbed.
- Middle-aged people are at an increased risk of high blood pressure if they sleep for less than five hours a night – and afternoon naps cut the risk of heart disease.
- Sleeping can also make you thin: women who only sleep for five hours a night are more likely to end up obese than those who sleep for seven hours.
- But sleeping too much is not good for the health. People who sleep for nine hours a day are more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than those who sleep for six, another study showed last year.
Read the rest here.