Sleep Plays a Major Role in Memory and Learning

Sleep Learning and Memory

Learning and memory is enhanced by sleeping. New structural evidence linking sleep to these two aspects has been found by researchers at Langone Medical Center, New York University (NYU). The researchers used mice in their study. It was established that more dendritic spines developed in those mice that slept after learning a particular task. The dendritic spines are important for transmitting information across the synapses in the brain. They develop from the brain cells, linking with other cells in the brain.

Wen-Biao Gan, Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine, NYU, stated that the new knowledge revealed that human beings develop new connections on particular dendritic branches when they learn something new. He explained that dendritic spines are like leaves growing out of a tree on a specific branch as opposed to any other branch; just like leaves sprout out of a particular branch, so do dendritic spines when we gain new knowledge or skills.

In the experiment, two groups of mice were used.  Both groups underwent genetic engineering to make the proteins in their neurons glow under a special microscope. This ensured that the dendritic spine growth was observable, owing to the illuminated proteins. The learning setting was like that of learning how a bicycle is ridden in that the learned skill cannot be forgotten.  Using a spinning rod with an increasingly fast speed, the mice were taught how to balance the rod, both while running forward and backwards. Increased dendritic spine development was observed upon learning the activity.

Subsequently, one group of the mice was allowed to sleep for 7 hours after learning the task of spinning-rod balancing, while the other group was deprived of sleep for 7 hours after learning the same task for the same span of time. This was done to examine the effects of sleep on dendritic spine development.

The findings of the experiment showed more dendritic spine development in the mice that slept after learning how to balance the spinning rod in comparison to the mice that were kept awake. It was also observed that the spines developed on different branches subject to the specific activity learned; that is, either running forward or backwards. This study was published in the journal Science.

The researchers of the study concluded that sleep is vital in forming and maintaining synapses associated with learning activities on specific branches. These synapses play a crucial role in memory storage.

A couple of other studies have shown a similar relationship in respect to sleep, learning and memory. Sleeping enhances the capacity of working memory, as shown in a study conducted on people by researchers from Michigan State University. This is important for learning, making decisions and solving problems. A similar study at NYU revealed that rats remember a particular smell better when such a smell is administered to them during slow-wave sleep as opposed to when they are awake.

Therefore, sleep plays a major role in memory as well as learning, decision-making and problem-solving.

Leave a Comment June 30, 2014

Do You Know the 7 Deadly Consequences of Sleep Deprivation?

Sleep Deprivation

7 Awful Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Around half of the adults in the US said that they don’t get enough sleep each night. According to studies, sleep deprivation is connected to several problems, such as health problems and increased chances of vehicle crashes.

It was only recently when scientists took a closer look into sleep deprivation. New tools have helped them improve sleep research in the past decade. The field is still too young to have definite conclusions, and there are some questions that remained unanswered, such as why do people dream?

There are researchers who conduct sleep deprivation studies to find out what happens when people lack sleep. Some of their subjects are asked to go without sleep for a night, while others have restricted sleep schedules that last for several weeks.

Studies have already indicated that having no sleep during the night can reduce one’s attention span, cause memory problems, and decrease reaction time. Sleep deprivation can also increase the levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin. Sleep has been connected to a wide range of functions human use daily, and the lack of sleep can mess them up.

During the 28th meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, researchers shared their preliminary results on the effects of sleep deprivation. These include becoming less sensitive and empathetic to gambling losses. The researchers said that most people don’t even realize that they are deprived of sleep.

You should consider that the results of the research were only preliminary, and more research is needed for further conclusions. Below are the seven bad side effects of sleep deprivation.

Sleep-deprived people don’t know they are sleep deprived.

Sleep-deprived people thought that they were doing well in reaction time tests conducted by the researchers. Their test results showed that people who lacked sleep do badly on the tests. The results didn’t surprise them, but the lack of awareness of their condition did.

Sleep deprivation gives people sleep goggles.

In one of the experiments, results showed that men rated photos of the least attractive models as being more attractive. The effect was not seen among women. In a previous experiment, results showed that men think women want to have sex with them.

Sleep deprivation increases pain sensation.

A study conducted by a group from the Komoki Sleep Center in Seoul, Pusan Nation University Yangsan Hospital and the University of Sydney suggested that the tolerance to pain became lower with less sleep at night.

Sleep deprivation makes people less concerned.

Researchers have studied the empathy levels of subjects and seen how sleep-deprived people tend to be less empathetic when looking at hands stung by needles.

Sleep deprivation leads to an increase in delusional beliefs and paranoia.

People who had been awake for 18 hours straight scored higher on the standard tests of global paranoia. People lacking sleep rated higher on depersonalization or feeling separated from one’s thoughts, reality or body.

Sleep deprivation makes people less concerned about money.

People who lack sleep should not be gambling, according to one study conducted by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh. When sleep-deprived people were expecting to lose money, their brain showed less activity in the regions that are connected with the mind’s reward system.

Sleep deprivation prevents people from recognizing emotions of others.

People who lack sleep don’t know the emotions showed by other people. Researchers found out that the lack of sleep makes people concentrate on the lower part of the body.

Read more about the effects of sleep deprivation from at Vox.com.

Leave a Comment June 26, 2014

Five Common Sleep Disorders

sleep-disorders-sleep-blog

A good night’s sleep is everybody’s requirement, as it helps in refreshing the mind and preparing the body for the next day’s energy demands. However, quite a lot of people these days are not blessed enough to enjoy a sound sleep and suffer from various sleep disorders. Tossing about in bed, easily disturbed sleep, and difficulty breathing may leave many of you frustrated and irritated apart from affecting your overall health. Though temporary sleep disturbances may be due to stress or bad lifestyle habits, such as consuming caffeine or alcohol, or may be due to certain medications or other illnesses, prolonged sleep deprivation is a reason of worry and needs to be dealt with immediately. We are listing the five most common sleep disorders for your reference and ways to deal with them.

  1. Insomnia: Insomnia, or sleeplessness, is the most commonly encountered sleep disorder and is mainly due to stress, anxiety, depression, or certain dietary or lifestyle choices. Though temporary insomnia usually goes away gradually on its own, it is the chronic, or long-lasting, insomnia that requires proper attention. The patient experiences difficulty falling or staying asleep or wakes up at odd, early hours and is unable to sleep again. Curing insomnia is relatively easy, as it mainly requires certain routine modifications, such as changing sleeping habits, adopting relaxation techniques, eating a light meal before going to bed, etc.
  2. Sleep Apnea: This is a type of disorder wherein the breathing is interrupted during sleep, waking the patient. A suffocated feeling or gasping for breath during sleep might indicate some obstruction in the respiratory passage, leading to difficulty in breathing.  The condition can turn fatal and thus, the treatment includes a CPAP device that delivers a constant flow of air to regulate breathing in sleep.
  3. Restless Leg Syndrome: People with this disorder feel abnormal sensations in their legs while resting at night or during sleep urging them to move the limbs constantly. As movement relieves the tingling, burning, pricking, or crawling sensation experienced in the legs, patients may be required to get up and move around for relief, thus affecting their sleep. Certain medications or limiting the intake of caffeine or alcohol help in overcoming this disorder.
  4. Narcolepsy: This is characterized by excessive sleepiness during the day, causing uncontrollable spells of sleep even while talking. It is a neurological disorder affecting the brain mechanism that controls sleep and wakefulness and is a serious condition that requires adequate medical treatment.
  5. Night Terrors: Generally affecting children of ages 3 to 12 years, night terrors are manifested by frequent episodes of crying or screaming in sleep due to fear. The child appears to be awake as he/she cries while sitting up in bed with open eyes. Though it does not affect the sleep, night terrors can be dangerous, as the child can jump out of the bed or fight or beat those around. The condition may resolve on its own as the child grows older, but in case where it persists or worsens or if the aggressive patient becomes uncontrollable, medical intervention is essential.

Sleep deprivation can lead to a disrupted lifestyle and has serious implications on the health of the patient and, therefore, needs to be checked at the earliest sign.

Leave a Comment June 11, 2014

Sleep Deprivation

sleep-deprivation-sleep-blog

We live in a society where everyone has something to prove and success is somehow confused efficiency, and in turn less sleep. There are people who go to sleep at midnight and who wake up at 4:00 a.m., and they are the examples of this society. Following their model, there are many more who want to become successful; therefore, a new culture has been formed in this society, which is the culture of sleep deprivation. Additionally, besides those who deliberately sleep less hours per night, there are also those who can’t get a good night’s sleep, waking up more tired than when they went to sleep. In both cases, there is a single problem, which is called sleep deprivation.

Even if there are some people who believe that they can function properly without much sleep, this is a wrong belief because sleep is actually needed to regenerate certain parts of the body, among which the most important is the brain.

Causes of Sleep Deprivation

One of the most popular causes of sleep deprivation is lack of time, mainly because people feel that they don’t have enough time in order to complete their everyday tasks. On the other hand, there are people who go to sleep at proper hours, yet they don’t get a good night’s sleep. In most of the cases, they don’t even know what is actually disturbing their sleep. One of the causes is the fact that many people wake up in the night without realizing it. Even though some of these wake-ups are normal, the majority will leave you exhausted.

Among other causes, there are pets in bed, alcohol, or medication. Additionally, any mild pain is able to cause serious sleep disorders; therefore, you should treat yourself as soon as possible.

Dangers of Sleep Deprivation

One of the most recurring effects of sleep deprivation is decreased performance during everyday tasks. Additionally, memory will also suffer, while stress will become even more present. Therefore, most people who suffer from sleep deprivation will feel these negative effects. However, the real dangers are diseases, such as heart attack, obesity, stroke, psychiatric problems, etc. Even if these risks don’t feel quite real, with time, they can happen; therefore, they should be avoided. If you feel that you are tired because you are not sleeping well, you should definitely consult a doctor.

Cures for Sleep Deprivation

One way of making sure that you have a good night’s sleep is to sleep in complete darkness. Nowadays, there are too many light sources that induce wrong signals to the brain. Therefore, you should cover your windows and any other light source that might disturb your sleep. There are many people who keep their phones right next to their bed. This is a bad habit since the electrical devices may interrupt the sleep process. The final step is to reserve your bed for sleeping, making sure that it’s the only activity that occurs in bed.

Leave a Comment June 9, 2014

The Stages of Sleep

sleep-blog-sleeping-baby

What is Sleep?

According to The Free Dictionary:

Sleep is “a natural periodic state of rest for the mind and body, in which the eyes usually close and consciousness is completely or partially lost, so that there is a decrease in bodily movement and responsiveness to external stimuli. During sleep, the brain in humans and other mammals undergoes a characteristic cycle of brain-wave activity that includes intervals of dreaming.”

What Are the Stages of Sleep?

There are four or possibly five stages of sleep:

  • Stage one, ofcourse, is the start of the sleeping cycle. It is a light sleep and slowly carries the person from wakefulness into the cycles of sleep as the body relaxes.
  • Stage two occurs when the brain waves slow and eye movement stops.
  • Stage three is a deeper sleep with delta waves, or very slow brain waves, interspersed with smaller but faster waves.
  • Stage four. In stage four, along with stage three, the person is in a deep sleep, one where the person is very hard to wake. The mind and body are so relaxed that some children are susceptible to sleepwalking, nightmares, or wetting the bed.
  • NOTE: In 2008, the US sleep profession did away with using stage four and combined it with stage three, which it is so called.
  • REM sleep, or rapid eye movement sleep, does not have a stage number and simply includes the initials REM. REM sleep occurs during the latter half of the total sleep cycle, and older adults experience it less frequently than younger people. The rapid eye movement is detected during a sleep study by attaching sensors around the facial muscles controlling eye movement.

Sleep stages are cyclical and happen repeatedly during the night. The time spent in REM sleep lengthens during the night and is the cycle a person is in when they awake.

Sleep Disorders

If the sleep rhythms of a person are upset or disturbed, a person may suffer from sleeping disorders, including sleep apnea, where you stop breathing for more than a few seconds; insomnia, the inability to fall asleep; restless leg syndrome, the irresistible urge to move the legs; or narcolepsy, where sufferers experience sleepiness during the day and may actually fall asleep. These are just a few of the over eighty sleep disorders. If you feel that you do not get sufficient or restful sleep, wake often during the night, or find yourself gasping for breath, it may be time for you to call your local sleep center and ask about a sleep analysis.

Leave a Comment June 5, 2014

A Problem with Your Bedroom Could Be Making You Fat

sleeping-obesity

What is the problem? Too much light!

A new study, The Relationship Between Obesity and Exposure to Light at Night: Cross-Sectional Analyses of Over 100,000 Women in the Breakthrough Generations Study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology on May 29, 2014 suggests that there may a link between your exposure to light at night (LAN) and your body mass index (BMI).

The authors of the study were not able to prove a definitive link, but the results are still surprising:

We found a significant association between LAN exposure and obesity which was not explained by potential confounders we could measure.

A BBC article about the same study further explains that:

A team at the Institute of Cancer Research in London found women had larger waistlines if their bedroom was “light enough to see across” at night.

Their answers were compared to several measures of obesity. Body Mass Index, waist-to-hip ratio and waist circumference were all higher in women with lighter rooms.

One possible explanation is that the light is disrupting the body clock, which stems from our evolutionary past when we were active when it was light in the day and resting when it was dark at night.

Leave a Comment May 30, 2014

What is the Secret to Sleeping More, Living Longer, and Performing Better?

sleep-blog-nap

Napping!

Eric Barker, author of the other greatest blog on the internet, Barking Up The Wrong Tree, has a great post about Naps. Eric doesn’t write about sleep exclusively, but he has covered sleep-related topics in the past (again, and again).

In this most recent post, Eric reminds us about the importance of getting enough sleep:

Lack of sleep not only makes you ugly and sick, it also makes you dumb … And if that’s not enough, lack of sleep contributes to an early death.

If you are like most working adults, you probably know that you are supposed to get more sleep than you do now, but do you know how much more?

Eight hours might not even be enough. Give people 10 hours and they perform even better.

Wait – so, most of us can’t even manage to sleep eight hours per night, but now you’re saying we should be sleeping ten hours per night!?

This is where the napping comes in, because:

Naps can boost performance and help make up for some of the problems sleep deprivation can cause.

Eric also reminds us that:

  • naps boost learning
  • naps make you happier
  • naps increase performance

That’s not all. We’ve posted before about how taking a nap at work can make you healthier and more productive and napping during the day can benefit children’s vocabulary.

Continue reading the full post at Barking Up the Wrong Tree to discover:

  • How to choose the perfect nap for you
  • When is the best time to nap
  • What to do when you have trouble falling asleep

Leave a Comment May 27, 2014

Are You Suffering from ‘Social Jetlag’? (Infographic)

WHAT IS SOCIAL JETLAG?

Social jetlag is the effect of fighting your body’s natural circadian rhythms by sleeping short nights during the week and sleeping in late on the weekends.

Social Jetlag
Source: BizBrain.org

Leave a Comment May 21, 2014

One Weird Health Problem Keeping People Awake at Night

Crying babies, noisy neighbors, work-related stress, uncomfortable beds, and too much caffeine. These are some of the more common reasons people can’t sleep at night, but did you know that some people are kept awake by…

Exploding Head Syndrome


What is Exploding Head Syndrome?

The Huffington Post describes the condition as follows:

People who experience exploding head syndrome typically hear a loud bang sound like cymbals crashing, a bomb exploding or a gunshot when no such noise has actually occurred.


Naturally, these loud noises can make it difficult to sleep, but is 
Exploding Head Syndrome dangerous?

According to the American Sleep Association:

As exploding head syndrome is not dangerous, and does not have a drastic effect on sleep, many individuals do seek help for their symptoms. It will first be necessary to consult with a doctor regarding your sleep and medical history to ensure that what the individual is experiencing is actually exploding head syndrome and not something else. Similar experiences have been known to be brought on by certain medications or drugs.

Who has Exploding Head Syndrome?

According to the American Sleep Association:

People over the age of 50 are most likely to experience exploding head syndrome. Women are at a higher rate of experiencing it than men. It has been reported in people as young as 10 years old.

Leave a Comment May 14, 2014

How Often Do You Sleep on the Job? New Study Reveals Shocking Statistics About Work and Sleep

The Virgin Pulse Institute announced the results today of a sleep study conducted in November 2013 with approximately 1,140 Virgin Pulse members, from three U.S.-based companies. Researchers found that:

  • 76 percent of employees felt tired most days of the week
  • 40 percent of employees doze off during the day once per month
  • 30 percent of employees were unhappy or very unhappy with the quality or quantity of their sleep
  • 15 percent doze off during the day at least once per week to once per day

Participants noted that lack of sleep impacted their energy and motivation to participate in physical activities and eat healthy foods. They experienced difficulty concentrating at work or remembering tasks, and felt more irritable at work and home. Sleeplessness also made it harder to manage stress, further impacting their difficulties sleeping.

For the complete study visit: http://connect.virginpulse.com/asleep-on-the-job-report-from-virgin-pulse.pdf

Leave a Comment April 15, 2014

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