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Sleep to Remember

Photo by Chris Leipelt on Unsplash

We’ve all experienced negative effects from lack of sleep — exhaustion, blurry vision, depression, irritability. But lack of sleep also interferes with your ability to store memories.

Scientists have long been aware of this connection: Psychologists suggest sleep isolates the brain from the distractions that interrupt memory storage, and neuroscientific research has implied that sleep facilitates “consolidation” — or the brain’s conversion of short-term memory into long-term memory.

But a 2015 study sheds light on what is happening to our memories on a biological level while we sleep.

It’s all about the dopamine.  Dopamine regulates the brain’s ability to change as it learns. One of the changes the brain can undergo is forgetting. This study found that when animals were kept awake and stimulated, their brains fired off more and more dopamine, which accelerated their forgetting. But when the animals slept more, the dopamine signalling slowed down and the animals retained memories better.

“Our findings add compelling evidence to support the model that sleep reduces the forgetting signal in the brain, thereby keeping memories intact,” said Ron Davis, chair of the Scripps Research Institute Department of Neuroscience and senior author of the study. “As sleep progresses to deeper levels, dopamine neurons become less reactive to stimuli and this leads to more stable memories.”

So for so many reasons: Get some sleep!

Author
Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Hope Mental Health, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.  Ms. Woodland with her background in nursing, prefers a holistic and integrative approach to mental health care that addresses the mind and body together. While Ms. Woodland provides medication management services in all her patients, she believes in long-lasting solutions that include a number of psychotherapies, namely cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure and response prevention therapy, attention to lifestyle, evidenced based alternative psychiatric care and spirituality. If you’d like to gain control over your mental health issues, call Hope Mental Health at 208-918-0958, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an initial consultation.

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