A good nights sleep does a lot for the human body - now scientists have discovered it can even help us access our memories easier and faster

Woman sleep next to an alarm clock

Sleep can help us store memories, access them more easily and even improve our memory when we’re awake - according to new research from the University of Exeter and Basque Centre for Cognition, Brain and Language.

The study asked people to recall made-up words right away, and then again after either 12-hours sleep or 12-hours of being awake.

Those who were unable to recall information during the 12-hour period of being awake, were better equipped to remember things once they’d had a good night sleep.

Nicolas Dumay of the University of Exeter says sleep almost doubles our chances of remembering information we learned but couldn’t quite recall.

The post-sleep boost suggests memories are sharpened overnight, and supports past studies claiming we actively rehearse information we deem to be important when we’re asleep.

While the link between sleep and memory has long been understood, this new research further investigates the idea memories are made more vivid and accessible overnight.

Dr Dumay believes the hippocampus area of the brain ‘unzips’ recent memories and replays them to regions of the brain originally involved in their capture - effectively allowing us to subconsciously re-experience major events.

5 more ways sleep helps your body

It’s not just memories that get a boost from sleep – it helps our bodies in a number of ways. Here are 5 of them.

1. Helps our heart

Our heart repairs itself and the arteries as it slows down during sleep. A constant lack of sleep has been linked to problems like heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.

2. Boost kids’ learning

A recent study found rapid eye movement (REM) sleep helps children convert the day’s events and lessons into lasting memories and new abilities.

3. Strengthens the immune system

Our body’s defence mechanism needs sleep to stay healthy. Sleep deficiency can affect the way the immune system responds and could lead to trouble fighting common infections.

4. Makes us creative

Harvard University and Boston College discovered that people strengthen the emotional parts of memories during sleep. It is thought this can help us to be more creative.

5. Control our hormones

Sleep deprivation can affect our hormones, especially those that control our desire for food. A study found sleep loss is linked with a bigger appetite, where we want to eat more than we need for the length of time we’re awake. 

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