The brain is able to perform many complicated functions while you are awake. Most of these functions are only possible because of sleep; but while you sleep, the brain is performing more activities than you can imagine. So while you rest and dream about unicorns and far away lands, remember that your brain is still working to make sure your daily activities can be achieved. According to Science Magazine, researchers have recently stumbled onto a magnificent process that your brain goes through while you sleep. Not only does sleep keep us well rested and ready for the next day to come, sleeping allows your brain to clean itself. That’s right; over time, your brain collects dust or, in technical terms, “toxic metabolic byproducts” that need to be cleared away for optimal functioning. This toxic waste, known as cerebrospinal fluid, can only be cleaned when brain functions are lowered because the process requires a massive amount of energy. During the day, the brain is already using most of its energy to process sensory information, so the best time for cleaning is during sleep, when energy consumption is lowered. Although possibly the most impressive thing your brain does while you sleep, this cleansing process is not the only function the brain performs while you rest.
The brain is a remarkable organ of the human anatomy, and although it functions better than we can imagine during the daytime, it also does extraordinary things while we sleep. The brain, according to researchers Thomas Andrillon and Sid Kouider, is able to process information and make decisions while a person is asleep. The study conducted showed that subjects’ brains were able to distinguish between real and fake words even while the subjects slept; subjects awakened and could not recall the words they heard, though, showing that the brain functions just as well while the person is unconscious.
Although many of us have always assumed pulling an all-nighter to study for an important exam was a better idea than getting some rest, it has been proven that during sleep, the brain forms new memories. According to the Huffington Post, sleep is essential before and after learning new information. Your brain needs to be well-rested to prepare to learn new information. After digesting new information, sleep is essential to cement this data into memory. So next time you’re studying for that big test, make sure to get some sleep so that the brain can process the information for better recall.
The brain is also able to remember how to do physical tasks through the process of sleeping. During REM sleep, the brain is able to store information into memory through sleep spindles, or short bursts of brainwaves at strong frequencies. Although we have been told that practice makes perfect, it is because of sleep that the brain is able to perfect many activities like riding a bike or driving. Initially, these activities are stored in our short-term memory, but during REM sleep, the brain transfers them to the temporal lobe, making them long-term memories.
Sleep, according to a University of California at Berkeley study, is shown to bolster creative connections. While the brain is in a resting state, it is more likely to find connections between ideas than it would if the person were awake. Upon awakening, according to the study, “people are 33 percent more likely to make connections between seemingly distantly related ideas.”
So remember, a good night’s rest isn’t just the best way to feel refreshed in the morning, it’s a crucial time for your brain to perform self-maintenance and form new memories.