Studying rat’s brains electrical patterns revealed that while we are sleeping our brains are replaying muscle patterns that they had learned during the day, but only at a faster tempo (20 times faster) if you were to place tones to the electrical impulses being recorded. That would mean that if you don’t sleep well, you’re not going to learn very well. Yet the school system insists on making kids wake up at 5 AM and send them off to school totally exhausted. We’ve seen science fiction movies where you can speed up time in the dream state and it turns out that you do speed up time. If you are an athlete this last paragraph really should mean a lot to you. You are going to perform better at a skilled motor task if you sleep well on it after initially learning it. Practice does not make perfect, practice with a good night of sleep is what makes perfect. Sleep can improve your physical performance by 30%.
The opposite is also true. You could train for months for an athletic event and if you get only 6 hours of sleep the night before, you’ll have a 30% decrease in functionality. With less sleep you even have difficulty exhaling Carbon Dioxide.
Injuries increase with less than 7 hours of sleep. 4 hours gives you a 60% chance of an injury. Stability muscles of the spine are also weakened, not just major strength muscles. That in turn effects your balance. Visualizing a movement will develop the connections in the brain almost as well as actually performing the exercise. Sometimes basketball players shot more accurately when they just practiced it in their mind. Possibly because they are not letting all the other pathways interfere with their performance.
How does sleep increase your skills? They have discovered that sleep does not improve the parts of your brain where your motor skills are already good. When you’re sleeping, your subconscious is good at finding the problem point in your brain for a certain motor skill and helps to smooth out the rough edges. Musicians have often reported not being able to get a certain piece of music the day before and after a good nights sleep they were able to play it. People say sleep on your problems because your subconscious mind has a way of solving it. Edison, Einstein would often wake up from a dream write something down and the next morning would realize they had the answer to their question. Sadly at my age, the only time I wake up from a dream is when I need to go to the toilet.
Sleep increases creativity. The brain when asleep with seek out and make new connections and that is what learning is. Neurons becoming connected to other neurons. It is like informational alchemy. You wake up in the morning with a better version of the world wide web. People have woken up to an incredible solution to a previous impenetrable problem. Dimitri Mendelev figured out the periodic table of elements from a dream. He figured out how all of the elements in the universe fit together. His waking brain could not do that. Einstein was known to not sleep well, but he was a habitual nap taker and we know what his brain came up with. Einstein had a chair that he would fall asleep in. He would have two ball bearings in his hand and when his muscle tone relaxed as he was falling asleep they would crash into a metal bowl below his arm rest and wake him up at his desk where he had a pen and paper ready to write down what he was dreaming about.
The phrase sleeping on a problem seems to exist in almost every language. The benefit of sleep transcends cultural boundaries. The British say sleep on a problem. The French say sleep with a problem. Thanks to Edison or Tesla, we control the night and we are a dark deprived people. Electric light is one of the things that keep us awake at night. Our pineal glands that produce melatonin are stimulated by light. The pineal gland produces melatonin when the sun goes down telling us to go to sleep. Now we’re told to stay awake all night.
Reading by ipad light, computer light delays the onset of the melatonin hormone by 3 hours as opposed to just reading by a dim light bulb. Also, you get less REM sleep from computer light, which means you don’t feel refreshed in the morning.
Stay tuned for Part 3