Do People Who Expend More Mental Energy Need More Sleep?
Posted by Elebra on 5/22/2012

We don't often see any sort of connection between how our brains "learn" and our sleeping patterns, but this is a serious oversight. Consider a recent study that showed that our brains should probably be "kept awake" after some sort of traumatic incident because sleeping (whether naturally or via a medical intervention) causes the emotional turmoil of the event to be cemented in the mind.

For example, people who witnessed violent events and were subsequently injured were asked how much they recalled. Many had very vivid memories, but those who did not sleep for at least 20 hours afterward had much less clear memories than those who were "put under" within a few hours of the incident.

This means that our minds can absorb information to a much greater extent if we rest shortly after being introduced to it. Thus, the college student who studies for two hours and then gets a good night's rest is far more likely to actually have memorized the material than the student who stays up all night, hits classes, goes through his/her day and then goes to bed nearly 24 hours later.

Does this mean that people who expend more mental energy in general will need more sleep? It depends on the results desired. If you are doing somewhat meaningless thinking - i.e. watching TV or playing video games - it is not likely that your performance will suffer from a lack of sleep. If, on the other hand, you use your brain power on a daily basis, take in a lot of information, and hope to retain it to the fullest measures possible - NEED to sleep.

If sleep secures our memories into our brains on a much more persistent level than we have realized in the past, it just requires logic to see how this will benefit those who ask a lot from their own minds each day.

What if you are not a student or someone who studies? Do you need sleep to the same amounts? Absolutely! Studies done on the ways that the brain cements learning through the use of sleep also show that skills are mastered in this way. You might want to experiment on yourself by seeing if you can master a skill - juggling, knitting, and typing - with minimal amounts of sleep and with at least eight hours of sleep after attempting to do the tasks. You will find that you learn more, enjoy better coordination, and master the training when you are rested.

Of course, I should remind everyone that our blog entries are for your information only and are not intended as medical or any other type of advice. Because everyone is different, you should work with your medical professional to determine what’s best for you.

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