What's going on in your head when you sleep? The research of Jessica Payne, Associate Professor and Nancy O’Neill Collegiate Chair in Psychology, shows that the non-waking hours are incredibly valuable for your day-to-day, especially for helping to commit information to memory and for problem solving. If you ever thought sleep was just downtime between one task and the next, think again.
Turns out, your brain pulls an all-nighter when you hit the hay. Many regions of the brain - especially those involved in learning, processing information, and emotion - are actually more active during sleep than when you’re awake. These regions are working together while you sleep, helping you process and sort information you’ve taken in during the course of the day. Payne’s research has focused on what types of information are submitted to memory, and has been instrumental in better understanding how the brain stores information.
Payne’s course, The Sleeping Brain, routinely sports a waitlist as a sign of its immense popularity among Notre Dame students. One student, Matt Berg, took the insights gained from the course and applied them to principles learned in Notre Dame’sentrepreneurship master’s program, ESTEEM. The result is Somni, a digital platform that delivers interactive content and tools designed to help students and adults improve their sleep life. Notre Dame’sMcDonald Center for Student Well-Being is partnering with Somni to help college students better understand what goes on in the brain during sleep and to help them develop skills and habits for better sleep, brain function and performance.
(And here's my favorite part...)
Payne’s research indicates all of us could benefit if we took a nap each day. The trick is keeping your naps brief enough, or long enough, so that you don’t wake up in the middle of a sleep cycle and feel groggy or fatigued after. Whatever the duration, Payne’s data suggests we never should’ve left daytime naps in kindergarten.