Why sleep makes you smarter – startling facts
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 - John Steinbeck
• A German study from 2004 kept some subjects awake overnight, while others were left to sleep for 8 hours. The two groups were then given a maths problem to solve.
• The group who had slept were almost three times more likely to solve the problem successfully.
• This outcome was thought to support biochemical studies which suggest memories are restructured prior to being stored in the brain. This process is believed to improve creativity.
• It is surmised that some of the memory problems experienced by older people may relate to the reduction in deep sleep that accompanies age.
• Other studies focusing specifically on dreams have found a clear link between problem solving and the experience of dreaming.
• This is theorised to relate to the lack of external input and distractions that are a part of our waking hours; while at rest, there is greater capacity for problem solving.
• It appears we really can “dream up solutions” to problems that may bedevil us by day.
• It is also believed that dreams assist with emotional regulation and stability, by providing a way for emotions to be processed.
• A 2007 study found a group of students were more adept at identifying subtle connections and seeing the wider context of a problem when they were well rested. This ability to analyse and see the big picture is valued in many professional settings.
• A lack of sleep makes it harder to concentrate, because energy is expended staying awake rather than focusing on a task or problem. This can lead to underperformance in the workplace.