How Smell and Sound Help Your Brain While You Sleep
The science behind ‘pink noise’ and scent
The neighbors are noisy, your baby is teething, and you have a difficult meeting scheduled with your boss tomorrow. Falling and staying asleep is not easy. So it’s no surprise when you don’t feel your best in the morning.
Decades of scientific research performed in controlled laboratory settings have highlighted the damage caused by poor sleep. A lack of quality sleep can harm “neurocognitive performance as well as psychological and physical fitness, readiness, and health,” says Rachel Markwald and Anne Germain, editors of the journal Sleep Medicine Clinics.
We also know sleep affects people’s ability to remember. Short-term sleep deprivation leads to deficits in memory performance and over time results in far-reaching disruption to mental processing, explain neuroscientists Carlos Puentes-Mestril and Sara Aton at the University of Michigan.
And yet, there must be a way of improving sleep and its impact on memory.
Pandemic Sleep Advice Straight from Sleep Researchers
In the age of coronavirus, sleep is more important — and more elusive — than ever. Sleep researchers are here to help.
The idea of maximizing human memory has long “penetrated culture via sci-fi movies and inspired the invention of devices that claimed to teach foreign languages, facts, and even quit smoking,” explain psychologists Nicola Cellini of the University of Padova, Italy and Sara Mednick of the University of California, Irvine.
However, the science is clear. During slumber, our brain cannot acquire new, complex information (facts, words, and images), but it can be “manipulated to strengthen the memory of recently acquired information,” report Cellini and Mednick. A review last year, appearing in the Journal of Neuroscience Methods, explored the latest therapies that target memory during sleep. While past research focussed on periods of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep (small, fast eye movements associated with dreaming), science has begun to explore other aspects of our unconscious downtime.