The amazing things you brain can do while you're sleeping
But why exactly do we need to sleep is not always clear. We know that sleep makes us feel more energized and improves our mood, but what really happens in the brain and body while we are resting?
Research has identified a number of reasons that sleep is very important for our health. When we are sleeping, the brain is one organ that remains active.
In fact, during sleep, neurons in the brain burn almost as much as they do during waking hours - so it's not surprising that what happens during bedtime is crucial to the brain and its cognitive function.
Here are five amazing things your brain does when you are sleeping - and a good reason to close your eyes tonight:
1. Make a decision
New research has found that the brain can process information and prepare for action during sleep, effectively making decisions when unconscious.
A recent study published in the journal Current Biology found that the brain processes complex stimuli during sleep, and uses this information to make decisions when awake.
The researchers asked participants to categorize spoken words separated into different categories - words referring to animals or things; And real words vs. false words - and asked to indicate the categories of words they hear by pressing the right or left buttons.
When the command becomes automatic, the subject is asked to continue but also told that they may fall asleep (they lie in the dark room).
When the subject fell asleep, the researchers began to introduce new words from the same category. Brain monitoring devices show that even when subjects are sleeping, their brains continue to prepare motor functions to make right and left responses based on the meaning of the words they hear.
When the participants wake up, however, they do not remember the words they hear.
"Not only do they process complex information when they are really asleep, but they do so unconsciously," researchers Thomas Andrillon and Sid Kouider wrote in the Washington Post. "Our work highlights the brain's ability to process information while sleeping, but also when it is unconscious."
2. Creating and consolidating memory
While you are sleeping, the brain is busy forming new memories, consolidating older memories, and connecting with newer memory. Less rest can significantly affect the hippocampus, the area of the brain involved in memory generation and consolidation.
For this reason, sleep plays a very important role in learning - it helps us to record the new information we receive to be remembered again later ..
"We have found that sleeping before learning helps prepare your brain for early memory formation," Dr. Matthew Walker, from the University of California, Berkeley, a sleep researcher who explains the results of his research to the National Institutes of Health.
"And then, sleeping after learning is very important to help save and store new information into the architecture of the brain, which means that you tend not to forget it," Dr Walker added.
So think twice before deciding to stay up late to learn when facing the exam. Dr Walker warns, if you do not sleep, your ability to learn new information can go down by 40 percent.
3. Make creative connections
Sleep can be a powerful trigger of creativity, like an unconsciously relaxed mind that can create surprising new connections, which may not arise in a wakeful state.
A 2007 study at the University of California at Berkeley found that sleep can create 'distant friends' or unusual connections in the brain - which can cause you to 'a-ha' after you wake up. Upon awakening from sleep, 33 percent of people are more likely to make connections between seemingly distantly related ideas.
4. Remove the poison
A series of studies in 2013 found that an important function of sleep was one to give the brain the opportunity to do 'clean-up' work.
Researchers at the University of Rochester found that during sleep, the rat's brain cleansed the destructive molecules associated with neurodegeneration. The space between brain cells actually increases when rats are unconscious, allowing the brain to clean out the toxic molecules built during waking hours.
"We need to sleep," Dr. Nedergaard, the lead researcher of the study, told the National Institutes of Health. "Sleep clears the brain."
If we do not get enough sleep, our brains do not have enough time to clean up toxins, which can potentially have the effect of speeding up neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
5. Learn and remember how to do physical tasks
The brain stores information in long-term memory through something known as spindle sleep, a brief burst of brainwaves at a strong frequency occurring during sleep.
This process can be very helpful for storing information related to motor tasks, such as driving, swinging a tennis racket or practicing new dance steps, so these tasks become automatic.
What happens during sleep is the occurrence of short-term memory transfers stored in the motor cortex for the temporal lobes in the brain, where they then turn into long-term memory.
"'Practice' during sleep is important for your performance later," says James B. Maas, a sleep scientist at Cornell University. He told the American Psychological Association. "If you want to improve your golf game, sleep longer."