The Power of the Brain During Sleep

by Admin 18, September 2014
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Many of us thought our minds completely shut down during sleep; incapable of processing information and making informed decisions.  Recent studies have proven otherwise.

A study published in Current Biology, showed that complex stimuli can not only be processed while we sleep but that this information can also be used to make decisions; similar to being awake. When we’re asleep, the brain regions critical for paying attention or implementing instructions are shut down, which makes it impossible to start performing a task.  The study, instead, tested for a continuance of decision making in the brain after sleep onset; by providing participants with an automatized task just before falling asleep.

Participants in the study were asked to categorize words in two specific groups by pressing a left or right button.  One category had “real words” such as hammer, cat, hat etc.  The other category contained pseudo-words.   A pseudo-word is one that could exist in a language in that all of its sounds and combinations are permitted, but it has no meaning whatsoever such as fabu, and piggle.  Once the task of identifying the word and categorizing it became almost automatic, participants were asked to continue to respond to the words, but were permitted to fall asleep.  Participants were being hosted in a dark room in a laying down position, which ushered most participants to close their eyes and fall asleep.

EEG electrodes were placed on participant’s heads to monitor their state of vigilance.  Once they were asleep, participants were given new words from the same categories.  While asleep, participants stopped pressing buttons, BUT their brains were still responding to the words.  Researchers looked at the activity in the motor areas of the brain, as it is possible to see whether someone is preparing a response and toward which side. Applying this method to the sleeping participants showed that even during sleep, participants’ brains continued to routinely prepare for right and left responses.

As the participants awoke and the experiment came to an end the participants who fell asleep had no memory of the words they heard during their sleep.  Participants confidently recalled the words they heard while they were awake.  So not only did the test subjects process complex information while being completely asleep, but they did it unconsciously, with no memory of the decision making occurring.

As studies continue to come out on the impact of sleep and the brain, it is easy to see we still have much to learn.  We know that good sleep has great mental, physical and emotional benefits and bad sleep has the exact opposite, but the effects of good and bad sleep on the brain is still being studied and researched.  We are excited to see the advancements in sleep research and are happy to bestow this information onto our friends, customers, followers and other sleep enthusiasts.

 

Sleep Deprivation can cause a decline in Brain Volume

by Admin 9, September 2014
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Sleep Deprivation can cause a decline in Brain Volume:

According to a University of Oxford study researchers said, “Sleep repairs and restores the brain.” They surveyed 147 adults, aged between 20 and 84 years, about sleep habits to determine the relationship between sleep difficulties and brain volume. The survey pertained to sleep duration, how long it took subjects to fall asleep, and the use of sleeping medications. All participants also underwent two brain scans.

 Researchers found that sleep difficulties caused a rapid decline in brain volume in frontal, temporal and parietal areas. The impact was higher in participants above the age of 60.

Author Claire E. Sexton, in a press release stated, "It is not yet known whether poor sleep quality is a cause or consequence of changes in brain structure, There are effective treatments for sleep problems, so future research needs to test whether improving people's quality of sleep could slow the rate of brain volume loss." If that is the case, improving people's sleep habits could be an important way to improve brain health."

Part 3 – Sight

by Admin 17, April 2014
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When you think of sleep and the sense of sight, I’m sure you think of darkness.  When trying to sleep, lights are typically turned off and eyes are closed, so what can you possibly do (besides closing your eyes) to increase sleep quality when it comes to sight?

We are glad you asked!

Let’s start with basic cleanliness.  Results from a survey commissioned by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) suggest that people sleep much better when their bedrooms are comfortable and clean.  A well-organized clean bedroom can make all the difference in how you generally feel prior to sleep. 

Electronics & Artificial Lighting

Sunlight and artificial light work to activate the brain’s natural reaction to wake up.  Light suppresses melatonin production and keeps your mind working as if it was not preparing for sleep. 

Optimal sleep conditions revolve around complete darkness and minimal to zero electronic disturbances.  When creating the optimal sleep room, begin to take an inventory of products that harm sleep quality.  You will notice that electronics typically encircle your bed and some may even sleep with you (i.e. cell phone, and tablets).

Televisions are a huge distraction and they do not make your bedroom conducive to sleep.   Many surveys suggest that many Americans might be losing valuable shut-eye because they spend the hour before bedtime in front of the electronic glow of a television, cell phone, tablet or computer.  We recommend removing televisions from a bedroom entirely to prevent watching television in bed.  If you want to watch television, go to the living room.  When you want to sleep go to the BEDroom.  Separating the two rooms will help your internal consciousness of identifying your bedroom with sleep and your living room with entertainment.

When relaxing in bed prior to sleep it is recommended to use a nightstand light with a low wattage light bulb.  This reduces the amount of light in the room to one light source.  This light source is preferred for reading as opposed to backlit devices (i.e. tablets and smartphones).  An eReader on the other hand that does not operate off of a backlit lighting source (i.e. Amazon Paper White Tablet) is a good alternative to a book and nightstand light.   

Have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night?  DO NOT turn on the lights.  Use a flashlight to go to the bathroom - keep the light to a minimum so it will be easier to go back to sleep.

Natural Lighting

Sunlight as opposed to artificial light regulates our sleep cycle and is why we sleep at night and are up during the day.  If you are having trouble regulating your sleep cycle, it is recommended to wake up and go by a window or go outside to let natural sunlight naturally wake you.  It is also recommended to regulate your sleep patterns by going to sleep and waking up 

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