Wednesday, January 03, 2007

To Sleep, Perchance to dream...

A study published in the Nature Neuroscience journal examined how memories are processed in the brain during sleep. During the non-dreaming portion of sleep, the brain replays the day's events, helping people reflect on recent happenings and learn from them, said Matthew Wilson, a neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory.

The bottom line: Information crammed into the brain during a sleepless night has less chance of sticking. When deprived of sleep, students may be able to regurgitate information they've memorized overnight, but they have decreased their ability to understand its meaning or to apply it to future experience.

"Sleep isn't just a passive event," said Wilson, co-author of the study. "The best way to take advantage of sleep is to have it interspersed between periods of wakefulness in a regular way."

I can't even tell you how many all-nighters I pulled in high school and college getting ready for an exam. Staying out late, sleeping in, my roommates famous "ten-minute naps" in the middle of the day when we couldn't keep our eyes open another second! I'm a night-owl by nature so I'd rather stay up late than rise early. No matter how many times I drag myself out of bed early in the morning "to get something accomplished" I find I am utterly useless.

Today I crawled back into bed after seeing my kids off to school because I had a headache and I was feeling grumpy about it. I fell back asleep and when I woke up the second time, I was ready to face the day. But I felt guilty. I seem to have this idea that sleeping is equal to "wasting time", yet, if it is how God created us, then how can it be a bad thing?

Sleep deprivation has been linked to all sorts of bad things - chronic fatigue, depression, weight gain, irritability, headaches, memory loss, makes health conditions worse, causes accidents, failing grades, can impede physical growth, affects your immune can even kill you.

Related to sleep is the concept of rest...I read a note from someone recently that talked about how they always honor the Sabbath by taking rest from sundown Saturday, to sundown on Sunday. The Sabbath is actually one of the ten commandments, yet most of us have trouble carving out ten minutes of rest much less a whole 24 hours.

I don't think we know what rest is anymore.

I know I don't. My life, just like most of your lives, runs at a frenzied pace sometimes. Slowing down, taking time to rest, and also sleep, can seem counter-productive. But we have to. God created us to need rest and sleep, not just ocasionally, but regularly.

So let's hear it for no-guilt sleep and a weekly rest. We should probably listen to Him - after all, I think He knows what He is doing, don't you?