“You can sleep when you’re dead.”
We have all heard the saying attributed to Thomas Edison and it has been used in various formats in songs, movies and by lots of us hungry, ambitious, hard working corporate climbers over the years. And why not? There is nothing wrong with hard work and dedication. But as the years have progressed I have begun to understand the importance of a good night’s sleep in terms of performance in the workplace.
It was back in 1924 that two psychologists John Jenkins and Karl Dallenbach first experimented on the effects of sleep on the memory. They had two students at Cornell University learn nonsense syllables then tested their memory, what they found was that the students remembered more of the syllables when they had been to sleep between the learning session and test session than if they had stayed awake.
There have been experiments over more recent years showing that new memories stick better after sleep, as the neural activity in the brain during sleep is actually rehearsing the day’s events and memories leading to a strengthening of the neural networks. Scientists have even gone as far as understanding how the different phases of sleep REM or NREM (rapid eye movement or non-rapid eye movement) will reinforce differing memories with REM sleep aiding the more emotional memories and NREM the more factual.
In 2000 a study by the University of Southern California using MRI technology showed that regions of the brains prefrontal cortex, an area that supports mental faculties such as working memory and logical and practical reasoning, displayed more activity in sleepier subjects. Researchers interpreted this result as indicating that the brain of the average sleep-deprived subject had to work harder than that of the average non-sleep-deprived subject to accomplish a given task, and from this indication they inferred the conclusion that the brains of sleep-deprived subjects were attempting to compensate for adverse effects caused by sleep deprivation.
At the end of the day sleep is something that is a universal need of all animals, even though being in a state of unconsciousness is not a good idea when you may end up as someone else’s dinner.
So when you are next contemplating pulling an all- nighter or cramming some study way past midnight – stop and consider if maybe a good night’s sleep and fresh approach in the morning may be more beneficial.