According to Dan Gartenberg, sleep is crucial for the brain.
The problem is that you probably don’t prioritize sleep enough.
In this TED talk, Dr. Dan Gartenberg explains just how badly lack of sleep can damage your mental and physical well-being.
Read on to learn why a bit more time in bed is so important for your brain and what Dan Gartenberg and his team are learning about how sound waves may be able to help you get optimal sleep.
What’s This Dan Gartenberg TED Talk All About?
Dr. Gartenberg is a PhD in Human Factors and Applied Cognition from George Mason University, an adjunct assistant professor at Penn State University, the founder of SleepSpace, and an expert in the field of sleep.
In this short Dan Gartenberg TED talk, he explains sleep stages, why sleep is so important for your brain, and how sound may play a part in stimulating a deeper night’s sleep.
He also gives a peek into the not-too-distant future and explains that you may soon be able to use sound, software, and sleep science to improve your deep sleep cycles.
He is currently doing grant-funded research from the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Ageing to look at how sound therapy may be able to help with sleep issues, improve sleep quality and optimize your alertness in the day.
Dan Gartenberg is one of the top sleep scientists doing ground-breaking research to help you sleep better at night and have a better quality of life.
3 Major Brain Benefits of Sleep According to Dan Gartenberg
People who make an effort to improve sleep hygiene by optimizing their sleep environment and sleep practices will see health benefits. That’s why it’s important to prioritize getting 7-9 hours of sleep in a 24-hour cycle.
But what are some specific benefits on the brain?
Dan Gartenberg explains three major benefits of sleep on the brain and how sound may be able to help you improve your deep sleep in the near future.
1. Sleep can help prevent disease
Dr. Gartenberg opens his TED talk by setting the scene of the modern sleep-scape,
“While the lightbulb and technology have brought about a world of 24-hour work and productivity, it has come at the cost of our naturally-occurring circadian rhythm and our bodies’ need for sleep.”
Blue light exposure from electronic devices is blocking both melatonin production and the release of melatonin making sleep quality worse. Plus, night shift workers are disrupting their natural sleep patterns on a regular basis. All in the name of productivity.
It’s worse than just a bad dream — this combination of bad sleep habits can be life threatening.
According to Dr. Gartenberg, regardless of whether you are a morning person or a night owl, on average, people sleep an hour less than they did in the 1940s and it is having major health consequences.
“This all adds up to a real health crisis. Most of us know that poor sleep is linked to diseases like Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes.”
Occasional poor sleep isn’t a huge deal. But, if your sleep is suffering at the hands of productivity on a regular basis, you’re putting yourself at significant risk of not only chronic health diseases, but also brain ravaging diseases like Alzheimer’s.
If life expectancy is important to you, when bedtime rolls around, shift your priorities and consider listening to your body instead of your boss.
2. Sleep enables us to be empathetic
You probably know from your own experience that if you get bad sleep, you’re cranky and irritable. In an objective sense, science agrees.
Dr. Gartenberg explains,
“Poor sleep makes us make risky, rash decisions and is a drain on our capacity for empathy[…]Sleep deprivation literally makes us more sensitive to our own pain, it’s not so surprising we have a hard time relating to others and just generally being a good and healthy person when we are sleep deprived.”
If you aren’t getting proper sleep, you don’t have the same capacity for empathy that a properly rested person does. Your sense of humor suffers and you can be irritable and harsh.
If you are feeling more irritable than normal, it may be the result of poor sleep. This can affect your relationships, personal and professional, and have long lasting effects on your mental well-being.
One of the major benefits of a good night of sleep is that you can simply be a nicer person.
3. Sleep is essential for memory and cell recovery
If you are not getting a rejuvenating night of deep sleep, you may suffer from memory issues.
Dan Gartenberg breaks it down,
“Deep sleep is how we convert all those interactions that we make during the day into our long-term memory and personalities.”
In brain scans, delta waves are an indicator of deep sleep, Dr. Gartenberg explains. Deep sleep brain waves are longer and slower than in the other stages of sleep (light sleep and REM).
According to Dan Gartenberg, as people get older, they’re more likely to lose these regenerative delta waves. This can help explain why your memory may be getting fuzzier as you get older.
Sleep is also critical for recovery.
As Dr. Gartenberg explains,
“When we don’t get the deep sleep we need, it inhibits our ability to learn and for our cells and bodies to recover.”
The good news is that Dr. Gartenberg, Dr. Dmitry Geraschchenko from Harvard Medical School, and their team of sleep researchers have made major strides in understanding delta waves and it is getting a good deal of attention.
Dr. Gartenberg references a specific sleep study in reference to their work, saying,
“A lab out of Germany showed that if you could play certain sounds at the right time in people’s sleep, you could actually make sleep deeper and more efficient and what’s more is that this lab showed that you actually could improve next-day memory performance with this sound.”
He then goes on to play the sound that he references. It sounds similar to static on TV, a white noise machine or ocean waves pulsing like a heartbeat.
“The sound is actually at the same burst frequency as your brain waves when your brain is in deep sleep. That sound pattern actually primes your mind to have more of these regenerative delta waves.”
Dr. Gartenberg believes that within a few years’ time, thanks to the growing body of sleep science, there may be deep sleep stimulating technology that plays sounds intended to stimulate deep sleep. It will be worn like today’s sleep tracking devices or smart watches,
To Sum Up…
4 million people have watched this 6-minute TED talk, and for good reason. Dan Gartenberg covers a lot in that short time: memory, health, delta waves, deep sleep, sleep quality and the science of sleep.
Now you have a conscious awareness of how important sleep is.
He is hopeful about the future partnership between sleep science, software development and technology, saying,
“Our sleep isn’t as regenerative as it could be but maybe one day soon, we could wear a small device and get more out of our sleep.”
Whether you are a morning person or a night person, a better quality of sleep isn’t just a dream if you start to make healthy choices now. Make sleep health a priority.
Want to watch the full TED talk with Dan Gartenberg? Click here.
Welcome to Snoozerville! I’m Dr. Alex Hartley, your guide to the world of restful sleep. With a Ph.D. in Sleep Science and years of experience as a sleep therapist, I’ve dedicated my life to understanding and improving sleep quality. My passion lies in uncovering the mysteries of sleep and sharing practical, science-backed advice to help you achieve the best rest possible. Beyond my academic pursuits, I’m an advocate for mindfulness and relaxation techniques, which I incorporate into my daily routine. At Snoozerville, I aim to transform your nights, combining the latest research with easy-to-implement tips. Whether you’re a chronic insomniac or just looking to improve your sleep hygiene, join me on this journey towards peaceful, rejuvenating sleep.