My professor always told us that we need to sleep more because it positively impacts the brain. But he never elaborated on how sleep actually affects the brain. How important is sleep for the brain, learning and our general lifestyle?
Sleeping was long considered a mystery in the scientific community. Different ideas exist on why our body sleeps, and what exact benefit it gives. But one thing is for certain, human beings cannot go without it.
With advancements in technology, we now know that the brain does not turn off while we are asleep.
The development of the brain happens rapidly for young children, and when does the brain do most of its growing? When children sleep, their brains begin working out every small intracity. During sleep, the brain organizes all of the child’s new experiences, tries to make sense of them and store them in memory.
A child’s brain development relies on sleep, and large quantities of it. So, even adolescent and adult minds will need sleep for their developing mind, even if it is growing at a slower rate than children.
The part of your brain that controls circadian rhythm, our daily timekeeper of when to sleep and when to wake, is the same area that if damaged, depression occurs. One common factor that goes hand in hand with depression is unusual sleep patterns, whether it is too much, too little or bouncing back and forth.
In studies on depression and brain function, most subjects suffering from depression were found to have sleeping problems. It is unclear if one causes the other, but disrupting the circadian rhythm section of the brain can never have ideal results. Our brain needs a regular schedule to keep our thoughts properly organized, but this involves having a good sleeping environment, so find the best adjustable bed, kick back and spend an hour before sleep with electronic devices.
New information is flowing in all the time while you are awake, leaving hardly any time to organize and prioritize them. Organizing these memories is a major function sleep performs in the brain, since all information does not need ‘saving'.
The connection between creative thinking, or divergent thinking, and sleep is very similar to how cognitive thinking is affected. Divergent thinking is the ability to use our imagination. You must have good cognitive function to make decisions throughout the creative process. However, more work is required to make concepts up, or diverge from ingrained idea patterns. Sleep helps make the creative connections you cannot make while you’re awake.
While convergent thinking is still affected when you're tired, your brain still prioritizes it before creative thinking. It is all about survival, since you do not have a lot of energy now, your brain focuses on what we know will work from our experiences, instead of trying a new approach.
It can be difficult to devote enough of your time to proper sleep habits. Life’s many twists are difficult to handle, and this can cause stress, anxiety and lack of sleep. But for someone in college or learning anything new, sleep is vital to the brain’s ability to store information.