Every time you go to sleep, your brain is taking care of business. While it may be time for your body to rest, your head has some serious chores to do.
When you’re asleep, the neurons in your brain are firing just as often as when you’re awake (and using almost the same amount of energy). There must be something really important going on since all animals risk danger in order to sleep, from mammals to fish to the birds and the bees.
Your brain is actually doing some pretty amazing things while you’re unconsciously sawing logs and swallowing eight spiders a year. The following are five incredible examples of why you need to drop everything and go to sleep right now….
1. You need to detox
Brains need to clean house every now and then. Sleeping gives the brain time to clear out toxic molecules and make space between brain cells (kind of like defragging your PC and cleaning up disk space). You can’t operate at full speed if you aren’t getting the required amount of sleep you need – eventually, you’ll run out of room for “you”.
2. You suck at bowling (and want to get better)
You’ve been seriously regretting joining a bowling league because your gutter balls show up more often than you do. Sleeping is actually more important for improving your game than practicing too much.
During REM sleep, your brain converts short-term motor memories into long-term muscle memories that make repetitive movements more automatic.
Basically, you’re actually practicing in your sleep, helping you permanently remember how to achieve that kickass strike, swing of a golf club, or perfectly-knitted sweater.
3. You need to connect the creative dots
A 2007 sleep study found that your mind can make connections while you sleep that it can’t make when you’re awake. People are much more likely to connect the dots between unrelated ideas after waking up from a good night’s sleep.
4. You have important decisions to make
You owe your brain a big ‘thank you’, because while you get to check-out from reality, it’s doing all the dirty work. During sleep, the brain processes complex stimuli and then uses it to make decisions when you’re awake.
Have you ever woken yourself up by trying to act out something that you repeatedly do during the day? Even when dreaming, your brain continues to prepare you to make proper decisions and respond to your environment.
5. There’s too much stuff you need to remember!
Your brain is, essentially, a computer full of files. While you’re drooling on your pillow, it’s making new memories, consolidating old ones, and linking them together – or storing them in the appropriate files.
The part of your brain that helps to make and combine memories (your hippocampus) can be poorly affected without enough rest because it can’t lock away all the new things you’ve learned throughout the day. If you’re planning on staying up all night so you can memorize the digits of Pi, you’ll successfully achieve official nerd status but likely forget 40% of the numbers you learned.
Going to sleep is like clicking the refresh button in your web browser – if you don’t have it, you can be blocked from downloading your own information. We spend 1/3 of our lives sleeping, but that’s not enough, dammit!
The Japanese clearly had the right idea when they started encouraging power naps at work.