Sleep your way to a Better Brain

We all know we should be getting plenty of sleep.  But do we really understand why?  Let’s have a look just a few of the many ways the brain is positively affected by better sleep:

Better focus

Anyone who has ever stayed up all night cramming for a test will agree that it’s very difficult to concentrate the next day. In the same way that your body feels tired, the cells in your brain have not had a chance to rest and so they too are sluggish and don’t feel much like doing anything. What this translates to on a physical level, is that your neural cells will transmit signals more slowly, meaning it will be harder to focus, stay attentive or even make good decisions. We are more likely to care less about things that are usually important to us and we are even more prone to forgetting things, especially new information.

Getting a good night’s sleep allows your brain to recharge so that it can focus better the following day.

Improved memory

When we are asleep, our brain has a chance to process all the new information we have learned that day.  Think of it as a complex filing system; new information replaces old, some things are archived (those things may take a little longer to dig up again in the future!) and other things are reinforced so that we can easily recall them at any time.
Without sufficient quality sleep, our brain doesn’t get a chance to file anything correctly (think of it a bit like a very messy desk; you know the information is there somewhere but have no idea where to start looking).
Good sleep ensures that information in our short-term memory is successfully copied into our long-term memory, where it will be retained for much longer.

Higher levels of creativity

It usually takes about 90 minutes to pass through the earlier sleep stages (stage 1 is the changeover from being awake to being asleep, stage 2 is light sleep and stage 3 is the deep sleep you need to feel refreshed the next day) before you get to the stage called REM sleep.
REM sleep is when many of our most vivid dreams take place and also when our brain releases the highest amounts of a chemical called acetylcholine, which makes connections in our brain between our existing ideas and can be the reason we suddenly wake up with a burst of clarity.
If you have ever experienced writers’ block, or felt unable to be at all creative, it could be that you aren’t getting enough REM sleep.  Although it is normal for us to get less REM sleep as we get older, many young people these days are living with alarmingly low levels because they spend so much time on electronic devices.  The blue light emitted by screens tricks your brain into thinking the sun is still up so it prevents you from feeling sleepy and means it takes longer to fall asleep.

6 very quick tips for better sleep:

So, we know how important it is to get enough sleep and now we also understand a little more about what that can mean for our brain.
But how can we go about ensuring we are giving ourselves the best chance possible of uninterrupted, quality sleep?  There are many things you can do, but here are some of the easiest and most effective:
  1. Activate the blue light filter on your phone and laptop
  2. Keep your bedroom nice and cool
  3. Don’t drink too much water before bed to reduce the likelihood of getting up in the night to use the bathroom
  4. Don’t drink a lot of alcohol or eat a huge meal right before bed
  5. Try to meditate for a few minutes each day to give your brain a chance to be still before bedtime
  6. Keep your mobile phone in another room while you sleep (and buy an alarm clock if necessary)

Sleeping well can help you be more creative and retain more information more effectively.  This in turn will make you more productive and more successful as a result.  Give it a try; sleep your way to success!

*Results will vary from individual to individual
**Results are based on each client’s circumstances.