Ex­tra hour is good for brain

Wales On Sunday - - NEWS -

BRITS able to en­joy an ex­tra hour un­der the du­vet to­day after the clocks went back at 2am could also ben­e­fit from health and cog­ni­tive bonuses, ac­cord­ing to sleep ex­perts.

Ac­cord­ing to Pro­fes­sor Matthew Walker, di­rec­tor of the Cen­tre for Hu­man Sleep Sci­ence at Berke­ley, Cal­i­for­nia, a small boost to our slum­ber can also im­prove mem­ory and in­crease learn­ing ca­pac­ity.

Prof Walker said: “Just 60-90 min­utes of ad­di­tional sleep boosts the learn­ing ca­pac­ity of the brain, sig­nif­i­cantly in­creas­ing mem­ory re­ten­tion of facts and pre­vent­ing for­get­ting.”

In a study pub­lished six years ago in Cur­rent Bi­ol­ogy, Prof Walker and a team of other re­searchers, demon­strated that dur­ing a mem­o­ris­ing task, test sub­jects who were al­lowed ex­tra nap time per­formed bet­ter than those who were not.

They found the brain’s abil­ity to learn was linked to sleep spin­dles – which are fast pulses of elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated dur­ing REM (rapid eye move­ment) sleep, which ac­counts for 25% of to­tal sleep time in adult s.

Spin­dle-rich sleep, which is said to oc­cur in the sec­ond half of the night, helps with the brain’s abil­ity to cre­ate new mem­o­ries by “clear­ing a path to learn­ing”.

But it’s not just about im­proved brain power. Ex­per­i­ments con­ducted in 2013 by the Sur­rey Sleep Cen­tre and the BBC showed a link be­tween an ex­tra hour in bed and ge­netic ex­pres­sion that helps pro­tect against ill­nesses.

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