New research shows that productivity levels and creativity not only drop when we are tired, but that a good night’s sleep is required for learning.
John Steinbeck said, “It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.”
The brain does not quit working while you sleep.
You may be resting your body, but the brain needs sleep to consolidate what happened during the day and then store what you learned into memory. Then when you wake up, you are better able to recall newly learned tasks quicker and more accurately.
It is better to study during the day, and then just sleep on it.
However, according to the National Sleep Foundation, if you work too late the lack of sleep impairs the ability to pay attention, communicate with clarity, think through options, and maintain a positive mood. And if you are not getting enough hours of sleep, your brain can neither process nor store the new information you received during the day.
The lack of sleep is the greater cause of memory loss than aging.
Yet, millions of adults in the US are sleep-deprived, thinking they can live with less than 6-7 hours of sleep.
“We all think we’re super-duper beings, but none of it’s true. We’re all biological beings with biological limits. Until we can grow extra heads and extra brains, that is what we can expect,” said Edward O’Malley, Norwalk Hospital Sleep Disorders Center.
In addition to sleep, exercise and social interaction work as wonder drugs for our brains, spurring the growth of new cells and connections between those cells. In fact, older active people might have more mentally efficient brains than young sedentary people.
The benefits of exercise on the brain include:
- Increasing the flow of oxygen to the brain, paving the way for the growth of new cells.
- Boosting brain-derived neurotrophic factors that are critical to the survival of new cells.
- Increasing neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine, which play a role in cognition and enhancing mental functions such as decision-making and the successful completion of tasks. They also boost short-term working memory and the ability to multi-task.
Although static exercise is good for the brain, complex aerobic exercise where there is movement, learning and variation works out the brain as well as the body. To get the best effects, blend exercise with a social component such as dancing.
Instead of working late, take the time to meet your friends for a yoga class or for a fun, active sport. This will better help you succeed at work.
It appears that working too many hours and not sleeping and exercising enough can hurt you in the long run. To sharpen your brain, you first have to take care of your body.