Thursday, May 29, 2008

It's simple: sleep more to learn more

Less sleep. It seems to be the first solution nowadays as people try to juggle the demands at the office and in the home.

This happens despite how sleep deprivation harms the ability to think and learn. Recently, as outlined by the American Physiological Society, scientists have made great strides in understanding why, and how, this happens. The act of learning new tasks causes the area of the brain responsible for memory, called the hippocampus, to produce new cells. These cells need sleep to survive.

In a joint study by Stanford University and the University of California, researchers found that sleep-limited rats had a much more difficult time remembering a path through a maze in relation to rats that were rested. The conclusion: learning rejuvenates the brain.

Sleep-limited people have shorter attention spans, impaired memory and longer reaction times. It is now apparent that sleep is not just needed for general health, but that it is needed more by the brain than any other part of the body.The brain is rejuvenated through learning.

Relating this to real-life. Two factors ultimately determine how one learns: exposure to new material and getting adequate amounts of sleep.

Learning new things keeps the brain healthy because it ensures that new cells in the hippocampus survive. Conversely, inadequate sleep impairs neurogenesis. Repeated sleep restriction can have lasting effects on how the brain functions.

Take a nap!

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