The brain is amazing. It can remember every single detail of our lives, even if we are not conscious of it. But the brain is also amazing. It is capable of forgetting, of erasing, of wiping out key details of our lives. We forget things, and we forget others. It happens all the time, and it is a natural process.
Most of us know the brain’s ability to store memories. As we read, hear, smell, and taste things, our brain cells consciously store those experiences for later recall. It may remain in the memory as a simple mental representation for a few days or weeks when we first learn something. Gradually, the memory is strengthened, which means it becomes more stable and can be recalled effortlessly, often without any conscious effort.
But recent research has revealed that the brain also stores memories unconsciously, far away from awareness. This new discovery could explain how dreams can stir up fragments of memories and provide clues for treating disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Alzheimer’s disease.
All the things we do during the day may not be very helpful when it comes to remembering everything later. A new study says that the brain may strengthen memories during sleep, which could explain why it’s so hard for some people to remember things when they get back from work.
How Does Sleeping Strengthen Our Memories?
The brain is a pretty remarkable piece of machinery. It turns out that it’s possible to strengthen long-term memories during sleep. In a recent study, researchers found that sleep makes the brain slightly more efficient at storing and retrieving memories. Here’s how:
In sleep, the brain processes memories of the day, processes dreams, and consolidates everything we learn in a life. This process, called memory consolidation, has become especially important in recent years, as many of us now work on our computers, smartphones, and tablets for hours each day. Because of this, scientists have become increasingly interested in how the brain consolidates memories during sleep.
Sleep is a relatively unknown key to healthy living. Still, the nightly slumber is where memories are forged – and where they are transformed from fleeting impressions into the permanent, indelible memories that guide us through the rest of the day. Not only does sleep allow the brain to process and consolidate memories, but it also helps to strengthen them.
While we may not be able to control our dreams, it is possible to control the depth of our sleep. During sleep, the brain undergoes three stages of processing. First, sensory information is converted into electrical signals and sent to the cortex, the most recently evolved portion of the brain associated with sight, hearing, and motor stimulation. This process is called synaptic consolidation because it allows the brain to integrate new memories into existing cognitive structures.
Sleep and Memories
Sleep is an underrated player in our day-to-day lives. It is the time when our body repairs some of our more serious injuries and forms the memories that help define us as people. Sleep is so important that every single species on the planet is programmed to be asleep when it is light outside. In fact, it can take up to a half-hour for our brain to shut down for the night.
Everyone who has had a lot of sleep has probably experienced a night of vivid dream-like imagery. But, how exactly does the brain strengthen the memories it acquires during sleep? Scientists at the University of British Columbia have discovered that the brain appears to seek out sleep to strengthen and consolidate memories. In a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers found that a specific type of brain cell, known as periglomerular cells, appears to be responsible for strengthening memories during sleep.
Memory is one of the most fragile things in our brains. As we age, our memory becomes less efficient as the brain forgets how to do certain things and is unable to comprehend new information, which can lead to a whole host of problems. But what can we do to preserve the health of our memory? Of course, it is all about having a healthy lifestyle and adequate sleep.
Sleep is something that everybody needs, but unfortunately, not everyone gets enough of it. The majority of the population is thought to catch around 7-8 hours per night on average. Still, there are individuals for whom this number is considerably lower, and there are even people for whom it is much higher. We still need to sleep in order to repair our bodies, repair the brain, and repair our memories. Without sleep, we can actually damage the brain and lose our memory.