If you’re like half of all adults, you may not be sleeping well or getting enough sleep. Today’s fast paced society can make sleep seem like more of a luxury than a need, but this is simply not true. Sleep is essential for good health and sleep deprivation affects your entire body and mind.
While you sleep your brain is busy processing the information from your busy day. It takes the days recently formed memories, and then stabilizes, copies, and fills them in order to make them more useful for the next day.
A night of sleep can make memories resistant to interference from other information and can also allow you to recall the memories more effectively. It also allows your brain to sort through new memories and identify what is worth keeping and what to let go.
Your brain creates memories by altering the strength of connections of hundreds, thousands or possibly even millions of neurons which in turn make certain patterns of activity more likely to occur. When we reactivate these patterns of activity, it leads to the recall of a certain memory, such as where you parked your car or what day of the week it is.
It is believed that these changes come from a molecular process known as long term potentitation which strengthens the connections between the neurons in our brain, locking in the memory for future recall.
While sleeping, your brain reactivates the patterns of neural activity from the day, which in turn strengthens your memory recall by long term potentiation.
So How Much Sleep Do You Need?
The recommendations for adults is 7 to 8 hours per night, but also keep in mind that sleep requirements are highly individual and depend on many factors. A rule of thumb is to consider how you normally feel after sleep. Do you feel refreshed and alert, or groggy and exhausted? If you don’t feel refreshed, chances are you’re not sleeping enough. Sleep requirements are highly individual and depend on many factors:
- Your age and genetic make-up
- What you do during waking hours, including exercise
- The quality of your sleep
In order to make sure you’re getting enough sleep, you need to set the stage for a good nights sleep on a daily basis. It is important to set a consistent bedtime routine which includes; creating a good sleep environment, avoiding foods and drink that might interfere with your sleep and improving your daytime habits.