Snoozing Smarter: How Sleep Can Boost Your Intelligence

We’ve heard it since we were school-aged children: “You have a big test tomorrow, get a good night of sleep!” While I can still hear my fifth grade teacher reciting that line in my head like a broken record, I’ve often wondered how much truth there actually is to the idea of snoozing smarter.

MSNBC cited a study conducted in Germany that examined the effect that an eight-hour night of sleep can have on the brain. The German scientists demonstrated that our brains continue to work on problems that may perplex us during the day, but after eight hours of sleep, the answers come a lot easier in the morning.

The German study is considered to be the first hard evidence supporting the common sense notion that creativity and problem solving appear to be directly linked to adequate sleep, scientists say. It also serves as a reminder for overtired workers and students that sleep is often the best medicine for those tough problems at work and at school.

National Geographic also did a study that found that dreaming can help to improve your memory and allow you to be more creative on a daily basis. The best “sleep” for this creativity to flourish in is REM sleep, which as you may already know, is the deepest sleep one can achieve throughout the night. REM sleep improved the study’s participants’ ability to see connections among seemingly unrelated things: the answers from the first-round analogy problems and the three words in each round-two association test.

Sleeping in class

Image source: Edweek.org

National Geographic also found that deep sleep can also boost your memory a step further: allowing the imagination to flourish and better plan for the future.

“When you imagine future events, you’re recombining aspects of experiences that have actually occurred,” Harvard psychiatrist Daniel Schacter, told National Geographic News. Schacter’s research also found that the area of the brain that handles memory is the same area that handles planning for the future.

On the other side of the spectrum, Yahoo found that not only does sleep make you smarter, but lack of sleep allows for more mistakes throughout the day, especially on tests. In Yahoo’s study, subjects were shown a list of words, and twelve hours later were asked to recall them. Sleep was the study variable.

One group of subjects was shown the list of words at 10:00 a.m. and at 10:00 p.m. the same day, was presented with a larger group of words and asked to identify only the words that they had seen that morning. The other group of subjects was shown the list at night and the next morning, after getting at least six hours of sleep, was asked to identify the words from the original list. Results revealed that the students who did not sleep before being tested were more apt to select words that were not on the original list, meaning they were more likely to have false memories or errors in memory.

While many factors can contribute to a person’s intelligence, sleep patterns are often overlooked. Remember to get your eight hours on an all-natural mattress to look, feel and think your best tomorrow!

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