Ooh – look at that dirty car

Dr David Lee of Sleep Unlimited has written a wonderful analogy for the relationship between sleep, mental health and memory.  

Here’s an extract

If you imagine that the inside of your head is a busy office, and that every thought that you have during the day generates a piece of paper in that office.

During the course of a day we have many, many thoughts, about everything and anything. Some of those things are important, or even very important (e.g. I need to call the mortgage adviser), but other thoughts may be less so (e.g. which socks shall I wear today?; Ooh – look at that dirty car). But each of these generates a piece of paper. Then we sleep and our secretary (the hippocampus) comes into the office and starts to organise things.

This organisation consists of sorting through all the paper and throwing out the rubbish (socks / dirty car); and prioritising the important things (sticking the “call the mortgage advisor” piece of paper on top of the in-tray for tomorrow morning) i.e. encoding this into the cortex as something to be remembered and not forgotten.

If we sleep well we will do a good job of organising our office and it will be tidy again by the morning, if we do not sleep well then the office will be a mess in the morning.’

Well worth reading the whole piece in this link as published by the British Psychological Society