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Deep Sleep Solidifies Your Memory

Getting enough sleep is critical to maintaining optimal health and unfortunately most of us aren't getting nearly enough of it. But our careers and jobs often force us to work and worry 24-7, and some people believe the more effort you make -- meaning more hours sitting at your desk studying or working and less time sleeping -- the more dedicated, smarter and productive you'll be.

There's new evidence that proves this time-honored staple of the business world of the sleep-deprived employee isn't ideal for your health or work day perfomance. Sleep time is far more valuable to your brain than ever in terms of learning and recalling facts, according to a study measuring the memory of students cramming for exams.

Researchers who analyzed brain activity in sleeping volunteers who learned to navigate through a computer-generated virtual town discovered evidence that spatial memories are consolidated during deep sleep. Also, for the first time, researchers found the activity level in the brain's learning center -- the hippocampus -- correlates with improved memory performance when subjects are tested the next day.

Remember, if you choose to burn the candle at both ends -- toiling long hours with little rest -- at work, you may be trading your health for a fatter paycheck, and that's as temporary a solution as taking "band aid" style drugs that treat symptoms, but not the causes, of disease. And you may be a prime candidate for diabetes and accelerated aging if you ignore that sleep debt too!

Science Blog October 28, 2004

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