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5 Ways Sleep Is Good for Your Brain

by BetterSleep
Feb 5 • 4 min read

These days it’s common knowledge that we need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night to avoid any detrimental effects on health and productivity. Exactly how sleep affects the body is still being discovered, but recent research suggests that the organ benefitting from quality sleep the most is the brain.

Although it was previously unheard of, scientists are now finding out that sleep helps with many critical brain functions.

5 brain functions that require quality sleep

Let’s take a look at how sleep - or the lack of it - surprisingly affects the brain.

Toxic waste clears during sleep

The thought of detoxing evokes images of saunas, teas, and massages. However, sleep was put into that category when it was discovered that the brain detoxes during slumber. This nighttime housekeeping removes potentially neurotoxic waste products that accumulate in the central nervous system during waking hours.

And in case that isn’t enough motivation to get better sleep, some of this removed waste includes toxins associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Additional research shows that sleeping on your side is the optimal position for removing brain waste.

Sleep promotes healthy cognition

Getting quality sleep isn’t only essential for mental alertness. Lack of sleep degrades the innovative aspects of cognition required for coming up with new ideas.

Not enough sleep also affects attention, working memory, and multitasking. Therefore, tasks like driving or operating machinery become dangerous when lacking the cognition provided only by a good night’s sleep.

Six potted plants and cactuses with flowers

Good sleep reduces the risk of depression

We know that too little sleep isn’t healthy, but too much isn’t necessarily better. If you’re not in the Goldilocks window of sleep, between 6 to 8 hours per night, you’re increasing your risk of depression.

A survey in Japan that looked at over 24,000 individuals found that as sleep sufficiency increased, feelings of depression decreased, and that depression increased with less sleep. Respondents whose sleep duration fell into that sweet spot of 6 to 8 hours of sleep experienced less depression than those falling outside of those hours.

Sleep boosts creative thinking and insight

We’ve all heard, “think outside of the box” as a problem-solving tip. However, what doesn’t get mentioned is that outside of the box thinking requires an important partner—sleep.

A study observed participants learning a new task while functioning on varying amounts of sleep. More than twice as many people that had a full night of sleep were able to speed up their learning by discovering the hidden patterns in the questions, regardless of the time of day.

Memory consolidates during sleep

Have you ever experienced learning something new, for example, a foreign language, and then suddenly forgetting the name of someone you met at a party last week? That’s because sleep does a Marie Kondo on your brain by cleaning out memories you no longer need (or, perhaps, that spark joy).

Researchers discovered that’s because, during sleep, the brain strengthens neural connections that are important by trimming back those that are no longer needed. Also, a good night’s sleep improves the ability to recall newly learned skills when compared to trying to recall them after the same amount of hours spent awake.

So, whether you want to reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases or to live to your full creative potential, getting quality sleep will help your brain in many amazing ways. If you need some help falling asleep, try one of BetterSleep meditations or healing music.

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