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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’. 

If you suspect you have a sleep disorder, contact us.

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.

If you suspect you have a sleep disorder, contact us.

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If you suspect you have a sleep disorder, contact us.

Some Facts About Sleep From Emeritus Prof Dorothy Bruck

Why is sleep so important?

We know that sleep is important because every animal ever studied sleeps. We have an overwhelming need to sleep if we are prevented from sleeping for several nights and because certain behaviours that are vital to our ability to function become impaired when we are sleep deprived.  While scientists don't yet know exactly why we sleep, we know it is vital for both our physical and mental restoration. 

What are some of the negative things that can happen when you don’t get adequate sleep? 

The first things that suffer are related to our brain function.  We can't hold our attention, our memory becomes poorer, our reactions are slowed and our mood fluctuates more than normal.  If inadequate sleep continues to occur regularly we find that our physical and mental health may be at risk.  The likelihood of depression increases, it seems likely our immune system suffers and we are at higher risk for metabolic impairments, such as those leading to diabetes.  Our performance at work is impaired and there is a higher chance of driving accidents.

Why is Sleep Awareness Week so important? 

Sleep Awareness Week draws attention to the importance of sleep as a vital component to a healthy lifestyle.  While we have all heard a lot over the years about the importance of a good diet and regular exercise, the importance of sleep has received less attention.  The Sleep Health Foundation argues that sleep is the third pillar of health, alongside diet and exercise.  Interestingly, the recent Parliamentary Report on Sleep Health Awareness (entitled Bedtime Reading) agrees with this assessment and also argues sleep should become a national health priority.

If you suspect you have a sleep disorder, contact us.

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