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The Missing Link Between Sleep and Memory

It is quite common knowledge that sleep helps our memory. That is the reasoning everyone uses when they don’t want to spend the whole night studying/getting ready for an important day at work. But, it has not been made clear why exactly sleep is so helpful. A recent study that took place at the University of California, Riverside, suggests a groundbreaking proposition concerning the specific sleep features that influence the consolidation of long-term memory.

Psychology professor Sara C. Mednick, who led the research, explains that in past studies “sleep has been shown to facilitate the transformation of recent experiences into long-term, stable memories”. However, “past studies produced contradictory evidence about which specific sleep features enhance memory performance”.

So what is so revolutionary about this study? It possibly found the missing link between sleep and memory. It was able to demonstrate that increases in autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity during sleep is correlated with memory improvement. Specifically, the research showed that ANS activity during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is a key factor in predicting increased memory function. This has never been done before!

“What is the ANS, and why should I care about all of this?” You may ask. Well, the ANS regulates different bodily functions, such as blood flow and breathing rate. And as for the second part of the question, Mednick argues that “the findings suggest that ANS activity during REM sleep may be an unexplored contributor to sleep-related improvements in memory performance.” This means that this specific element can enrich our understanding of the connection between mind and body, as well as relationships between different sleep functions. As researchers get closer to understanding exactly how sleep enhances our long-term memory, they can find solutions to different sleep/memory-related issues.

Now that you’ve read this, go get that ANS working and sleep well!
**Make sure this one stays in your long-term memory! **

Liat is a SleepRate community manager and customer advocate.

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