By Olga Zavgorodnya
Mankind has pondered dreams since the beginning of time. For most of history, there was no authoritative position on why we sleep, dream or what our dreams are supposed to mean. We do know that biologically and physically, our bodies need time to rebuild and recover from the day; our bodies repair and produce necessary goodies for the next day’s work. However, what about our minds?
Michelle Carr, Ph.D, a researcher at the Dream and Nightmare Laboratory in the Center for Advanced Research in Sleep Medicine (CARSM), explains that when we sleep, “The information encoded during the day that is replayed and strengthened during the immediate night’s sleep, is a critical part of memory consolidation.” It turns out that one of the primary benefits of sleep is solidifying memories.
Newly published research study by Mark Blagrove, a sleep researcher at Swansea University in the U.K, welcomed 44 participants to record their recollections of their dreams for a period of ten days. Blagrove discovered that “Important events often go into dreams, and we assume these events are being consolidated during REM sleep.” Essentially, sleep mechanisms trigger our brain to sort through all our memories (obtained from the day); some get stored away for long-term, permanent storage, while others are retired without ceremony. They go “poof” into the atmosphere (or something).
Even more interesting is researchers’ finding that our dreams not only relay experience that we had during the waking day, but that while we sleep, we incorporate past experiences. Elizaveta Solomonova, a doctoral student at the Dream and Nightmare Laboratory at the Center for Advanced Research in Sleep Medicine in Montreal, states that while we dream, our brain “…uses some elements that are recent but finds links with memories from the past.”
In one model, three categories of memories exist: life experiences, information or knowledge, and learned bodily responses (how to do things). This is but one reason the mental health field strongly encouraged getting the appropriate amount and quality of sleep. Ample sleep allows the mind ample opportunity to store one’s experiences.
More and more evidence states that giving your body the time for maintenance can have a profound effect on how one feels in the morning, and all day. Moral of the story: do NOT neglect your sleep; it is essential to success. It is no exaggeration to say that the biggest segment of self-care is securing sufficient sleep—quality and quantity.
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