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“Thinking with a sleep-deprived brain is like hacking your way through a dense jungle with a machete. It’s overgrown, slow-going, exhausting. The paths overlap, and light can’t get through. Thinking on a well-rested brain is like wandering happily through Central Park; the paths are clear and connect to one another at distinct spots, the trees are in place, you can see far ahead of you. It’s invigorating.”
This quote more or less sums up a fascinating new Fast Company article written by Judah Pollack, co-author of The Chaos Imperative, and Olivia Fox Cabane, author of The Charisma Myth. The piece posits that we should think of our minds as gardens, which get a good “synaptic pruning” when we sleep, but which will quickly become overgrown if we don’t. Instead of flowers, our brains are growing connections between neurons, and it is across these connections that critical neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine travel; however, when you take in too much information but don’t rest enough for the brain to clear out the stuff you don’t need, the result is a sluggish system. Even 10 to 20-minute naps are useful to this end.
You might be wondering how the brain knows which information to ‘prune’ out, and which to leave. According to the authors of this article, your brain will hold on to the stuff you think about the most. So, if you spend a lot of time thinking about your ex-boyfriend, your brain is going to hold on to the information it has on him instead of, say, the information you learned while reading this article. So, the piece posits, it’s important to be mindful of what’s running through your mind the most. At least now we know why it’s so easy to memorize the number to our favorite Thai takeout joint and yet we can never seem to remember to pay our bills on time…