Sleep Plays a Major Role in Memory and Learning

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.

The Sleep Blog does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Instead, this website provides general information for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider if you have questions or concerns regarding any medical condition or treatment.

Do You Know the 7 Deadly Consequences of 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

The Sleep Blog does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Instead, this website provides general information for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider if you have questions or concerns regarding any medical condition or treatment.

Five Common Sleep Disorders

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.

The Sleep Blog does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Instead, this website provides general information for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider if you have questions or concerns regarding any medical condition or treatment.