Recently, I've been having very detailed dreams related to work that include problem solving  (unfortunately, they are not just fun fantasies!).  I've actually wondered if these dreams are some sort of mechanism that comes with aging.   Lo and behold, today I ran across a NIH article, How Snoozing Strengthens Memories  (through dreams) that may shed some light on this phenomena.  Here is part of the article:

When you learn something new, the best way to remember it is to sleep on it. That’s because sleeping helps strengthen memories you’ve formed throughout the day. It also helps to link new memories to earlier ones. You might even come up with creative new ideas while you slumber.

What happens to memories in your brain while you sleep? And how does lack of sleep affect your ability to learn and remember? NIH-funded scientists have been gathering clues about the complex relationship between sleep and memory. Their findings might eventually lead to new approaches to help students learn or help older people hold onto memories as they age.

“We’ve learned that sleep before learning helps prepare your brain for initial formation of memories,” says Dr. Matthew Walker, a sleep scientist at the University of California, Berkeley. “And then, sleep after learning is essential to help save and cement that new information into the architecture of the brain, meaning that you’re less likely to forget it.”

To read more, visit:    http://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/Apr2013/Feature2

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