Can a Good Night’s Sleep Make You Smarter?

Can a Good Night’s Sleep Make You Smarter?


5 ways sleep (and your mattress) affect your brain

Does sleep affect how ‘smart’ you feel? How many hours of sleep do you need to feel ‘smart’? Ever “slept on it” and woke up with a smart solution to your challenge or problem?

Scientists believe that our brains use sleep to sort and clean – much like the nightshift crew at Target cleans up after a busy day of selling. The aisles are tidied, everything’s put away and the stuff that’s not selling is moved to the backroom. When we don’t get the sleep we need, our messy brains actually start to fall apart, as seen through brain imaging technologies.

So how can you sleep (and a new mattress) make you smarter?

If being smart is tied to better sleep, quality and quantity is tied directly to your mattress. A 2011 National Sleep Foundation survey of 1,500 Americans found that 92% of us feel a comfortable mattress is very important to a good night’s sleep. And yet so many people climb into a bed that’s more of a torture device than a soothing sanctuary.

You wouldn’t get into a car without brakes, right? You wouldn’t tolerate a fridge that couldn’t keep food cool, right? But night after night, many of us climb into a bed that’s not only killing our chance of a good night’s sleep – it’s actually making us stupid.

If your mattress has seen better nights, we’ve found 5 benefits of sleeping on a new mattress.

1.    A new mattress can zap your stress

“In a small 2009 study, 59 healthy men and women slept for 28 consecutive nights on their regular mattresses, then another 28 nights on new, medium-firm mattresses. They were asked to evaluate their stress levels based on factors like worrying, racing thoughts, nervousness, irritability, headaches, trembling and more. The new beds resulted in “a significant decrease in stress,” according to the study, possibly because of the related increase in sleep quality and decrease in pain associated with the firmer setup.

2.    A new mattress can soothe a hurting back

Sore and aching backs send more people to doctors than any other single complaint and the busier we get, the more we suffer. Sitting all day at a desk or standing in heels wreaks havoc on spinal alignment and sadly, we’re just not exercising enough to undo that damage. Sleep can help heal the abuse we throw at our backs but most of us don’t sleep on a supportive enough mattress to get the job done. And when we don’t give our backs the rest they need, mornings can be painful.

3.    A new mattress can help you lose weight

While you weren’t sleeping, your body cooked up a perfect recipe for weight gain. Skimping on sleep sets your brain up to make bad decisions. It dulls activity in the brain’s frontal lobe, the locus of decision-making and impulse control. So it’s a little like being drunk. You don’t have the mental clarity to make good decisions. When you’re short on sleep, it’s easy to lean on a large latte to get moving. You might be tempted to skip exercise (too tired), get takeout for dinner, and then turn in late because you’re uncomfortably full. 

4.    A new mattress can help reduce inflammation and pain

Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis and premature aging all have strong ties to inflammation. If you sleep less than six hours a night, your blood levels of inflammatory proteins may be higher than people who sleep more. Show your heart some love – put it to bed.

5.    A new mattress can make you happier

A change in your sleep habits is one of the most common effects of depression. Lack of sleep can start before depression, be a symptom of depression, and make depression worse. “Depression and sleep are closely related,” says Prashant Gajwani, MD, associate professor and vice chairman of clinical affairs in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston. “Depression is a brain illness, and it affects many types of brain functions, including the sleep-wake cycle. Once this biologic clock has been disturbed, it can make sleep even more irregular and that adds to the depression. It can become a vicious cycle for many people.” 

What’s the cost of a good night’s sleep?

If you spent $2,000 on a new mattress (for example) and slept comfortably on that mattress for 7 years, the cost of healthy sleep would be $1.27 per night – less than the cost of a Starbucks coffee in the morning…