Sleep Awareness Week 2019
WHEN: 5 - 11 August 2019
This year’s theme for Sleep Awareness Week in Australia is ‘Sleep on it - memory and problem solving’.
There are many different ways in which good quality sleep plays a major role in our ability to learn, to think clearly and to protect ourselves from any future harm to our brains. From infancy to old age, sleep is essential for optimal cognitive functioning.
During Sleep Awareness Week we will feature stories and research from experts across Australia. Three key areas will be the focus:
- The importance of improved sleep when recovering from a brain injury
- Dementia and sleep - examining how altered brain activity during sleep may be risk factors for cognitive impairment and neurodegeneration.
- Sleep Apnoea and improvements to cognition when CPAP and other treatments are commenced
It is known that that sleep plays an important role in memory, both before and after learning a new task. Healthy sleep is essential for optimal learning and memory function.
- Lack of adequate sleep affects mood, motivation, judgment, and our perception of events.
- Although there are some open questions about the specific role of sleep in forming and storing memories, the general consensus is that good quality sleep throughout a whole night is optimal for learning and memory.
Research suggests that sleep helps learning and memory in two distinct ways. First, a sleep-deprived person cannot focus attention optimally and therefore cannot learn efficiently. Second, sleep itself has a role in the consolidation of memory, which is essential for learning new information. Memory consolidation takes place during sleep through the strengthening of the neural connections that form our memories.
Being tired to the point of fatigue or exhaustion means that we are less likely to perform well. Neurons do not fire optimally, muscles are not rested, and the body’s organ systems are not synchronized. Lapses in focus from sleep deprivation can even result in accidents or injury.
Low-quality sleep and sleep deprivation also negatively impact mood, which has consequences for learning. Alterations in mood affect our ability to acquire new information and subsequently to remember that information. Although chronic sleep deprivation affects different individuals in a variety of ways (and the effects are not entirely known), it is clear that a good night’s rest has a strong impact on learning and memory.
This year’s Sleep Awareness Week will be a time to reflect upon this important aspect of sleep. From examining how altered brain activity during sleep may be risk factors for cognitive impairment and neurodegeneration, to exploring the benefits of improved sleep when recovering from a brain injury to the impacts of improved cognitive functioning when sleep apnoea is treated, it is a week to highlight the importance of sleep for optimal cognitive functioning.
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If you suspect you have a sleep disorder see your GP.