Time to talk about the thing we all say we’re going to do more, but never do. No, not getting in shape. No, not reading. No, not eating low carb, high lean protein food. Jesus, we need to get our acts together, don’t we? Sleeping! I’m talking about sleeping.
The exact purpose of sleep is still a mystery, but one thing we do know is that your brain isn’t just taking time off. A number of functions, including processing information and physically removing accumulated junk protein, occur while you’re catching those z’s. Lack of sleep has been correlated with shorter life spans, increased risk of heart disease, and increased risk of Alzheimer’s.
Following the start of sleep, stage 1 drowsiness, we enter stage 2 sleep, a less-deep sleep where temperature drops and body functions slow. During stage 2, our brains begin an activity called “sleep spindles” due to its appearance on electroencephalograms (thing that measures electrical impulses in your brain; like an EKG for your head). It had been hypothesized that stage 2 was important due to the amount of sleep time taken up with it. Apparently, stage 2 sleep makes us learn good, and do lots of other stuff good, too! A University of California Berkley study showed that, the more sleep spindles tests subjects have, the more their ability to learn is “refreshed” the next day, and the easier it is for them to learn a new task.
In a new study, researchers in Hungary showed that dogs are doing the exact same thing. When teaching dogs commands in English instead of Hungarian, the more sleep cycles were associated with an increase in the ability to learn. And just like in humans, bitches (stop giggling) had more sleep spindles than male dogs during their naps, and were able to learn more English commands.
Three takeaways I see here:
- There are dogs in Hungary that understand more languages than you. But really, we’re discovering more and more crossovers between animal and human physiology, and cross-species studies increase understanding of both.
- Science says women can learn better than men. Maybe we should let them control more things.
- You really should get more sleep. What time is it? Turn off your computer, read a good book with some warm decaf tea for 30 minutes, and curl up under a warm blanket. ESPECIALLY if you’re at work right now. Your boss will understand.