Thursday, April 16, 2009

Don't forget the old standy...Sleep! You and I, and even flies, need it.

You won't find anyone more eager than me to extoll the virtues of establishing a deliberate practice of mental and emotional relaxation in some form. 20 minutes a day is all it takes. But even though we engage in mental rest on a conscious level, let's not forget the age-old standby, the thing we all were born to do and can't live without, the UNconscious kind of rest: Sleep!

Scientists (with actual PhDs) have now recognized what we knew all along - that sleep is essential for memory and learning. This article in WebMD news explains how sleep influences the chemistry of the brain, paving the way for new learning, by strengthening some synapses and destroying others.

Different stages of sleep are important for different types of learning. While napping or meditating may help strenghthen memorization, it appears that deeper sleep is needed for learning new skills and processing complex information.

So before you decide to meditate the night away, know that while that may help you remember your wedding anniversary, it may not be the best course of action if you are trying to master the intricacies of Irish tap dancing.

The article mentions that even flies need sleep to learn! And flies need more sleep after social interation. Social interaction??? It was not mentioned what kind of social interaction these flies were engaged in, but after a day of swarming over a rotten banana peel with my friends, I'd imagine that I would appreciate a good night's slumber... before getting up in the morning for another day of swarming over a rotten banana peel.

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