‘Sleep On It’ Is Sound, Science-Based Advice, Study Suggests
We’re normally used to associating our sleeping cycles with pure physical resting, but a study heavily suggests there’s a lot more to sleep than resting our muscles. It also helps you regulate your thoughts, emotions, and cognitive ability all-together
In recent years, much sleep research has focused on memory, but now results of a new study by University of Massachusetts Amherst psychologist Rebecca Spencer and colleagues suggest another key effect of sleep is facilitating and enhancing complex cognitive skills such as decision-making.
In one of the first studies of its kind, Spencer and postdoctoral fellow Edward Pace-Schott investigated the effects of sleep on affect-guided decision-making, that is decisions on meaningful topics where subjects care about the outcome, in a group of 54 young adults. They were taught to play a card game for rewards of play money in which wins and losses for various card decks mimic casino gambling.
Subjects who had a normal night’s sleep as part of the study drew from decks that gave them the greatest winnings four times more often than those who spent the 12-hour break awake, and they better understood the underlying rules of the game. Psychologists believe rule discovery is an often hidden yet key factor that is crucial to making sound decisions.
This echoes the message of Arianna Huffington’s TED Talk on sleep: "How to succeed? Get more sleep." She talks about how sleeping can awaken your mind to bigger and better ideas. This study asserts that decision-making is affected by sleep, which doesn’t surprise me at all!
What prevents people from getting enough sleep? Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but I know my biggest struggle as a college student intrigued by the world around me is that I fear I’ll miss something. I stay up late catching up on news, doing homework, or putzing around on tumblr, because I want to be up-to-speed on what’s going on in my world. Oftentimes, I’m more concerned about everything around me than my own well-being.
Today’s society is soaked with information, and I think I’ve spent so many years as a sponge, that I’m constantly drenched, and I get hungry for it when my brain isn’t completely full. If I were more diligent with my free time, spending it researching topics I find interesting rather than squandering it away playing games or rooting through photos on facebook, perhaps I wouldn’t “need” to stay up so late, catching up.
I’ve heard that the best time to sleep, based on your biological rhythm, is 10PM-6AM. Not 9-5 or 11-7, but 10-6. Have to get on that…