Society seems to frown on sleep as people fight against the signs of a failing internal balance. Yawns are treated with caffeine in coffee, and insomnia is silenced with pills. What exactly should a good night’s sleep do for you?
The first stage of sleep is known as the shallow end of sleep. It typically lasts up to five minutes. After that, stage two begins. Stage two studies show the activation of spindles. These spindles are believed to be used in storing recently acquired knowledge from the day into long-term memory. The more spindles, the greater the chances of retaining the new information the next day.
“In sleep labs, when people have been introduced to certain new tasks, mental or physical, their spindle frequency increases that night. The more spindles they have, it seems, the better they perform the task the next day” (Finkel, 51). It is through sleep that we can make connections between things that we might not otherwise have made while awake and consciously thinking about it. This is likely where the phrase, “I’m going to sleep on it,” comes from. In other words, “The waking brain is optimized for collecting external stimuli, the sleeping brain for consolidating the information that’s been collected” (Finkel, 51).
Even PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) could be prevented with the proper onset of stage 2 of sleep. According to neuroscientist Gina Poe at the University of California, Los Angeles, “To forestall post-traumatic stress disorder, the soldiers should remain awake for six to eight hours” (Finkel, 56.) Gina Poe’s research, as well as others in the field, suggests that sleeping too soon after a major event, before problems can be mentally resolved, is likely the cause of the brain choosing poorly on which events to store as long-term memories.
We hope you found this month’s look into the process of sleep to be insightful and enjoyable! Next month we’ll discuss stages 3 and 4.
Finkel, Michael. “Want to Fall Asleep? Read This Story.” National Geographic, Aug. 2018, pp.40-77.