Sleepless in America

Sleepless in America by National Geographic Channel exposes the crucial need for sleep and the shocking life-threatening consequences of its absence.

Sleep and emotion regulation

The interplay between sleep and emotion regulation: conceptual framework empirical evidence and future directions.
Gruber R, Cassoff J.
Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2014 Nov;16(11):500. 

Emotions are biologically-based responses that help an organism meet challenges and opportunities, and involve changes in subjective experience, behavior, and physiology. Emotions arise when something important to us is at stake. Although many factors have been associated with healthy emotional regulation, the role of sleep in this process has been largely ignored. Recent studies, however, have begun to delineate how sleep critically affects emotional functioning. Nighttime sleep affects daytime mood, emotional reactivity and the capacity to regulate positive and negative emotions; conversely, daytime experiences affect sleep. Hence, there is a complex interplay between sleep and emotional regulation. The objective of this article is to examine this interplay in adults. This objective is addressed by utilizing a framework that identifies key aspects of the relationship between sleep and emotion. We propose that the connectivity between the emotional centers of the brain - the prefontal cortex and the amygdala - is in part dependent on the homeostatic sleep system such that connectivity between these brain networks is higher when rested and lower when sleep deprived. High connectivity drives more efficient executive functioning, while a disconnect leads to poor executive functioning capacity including emotional reactivity and impulsivity. The cognitive effects of the homeostatic system are couple with the mood regulation effects of the circadian system together dictating the degree to which one experiences emotional regulation or dysregulation. Further, the affective brain systems of individuals with clinical symptomology and/or pathology are suggested to be more vulnerable to homeostatic pressure and circadian lows or misalignment resulting in increased affective clinical symptomology. We review empirical evidence that supports this framework and explore the implications of this framework. Finally, we describe future directions for this type of work.

Memory stabilization and reorganization

The Role of Sleep in Human Declarative Memory Consolidation.
Alger SE, Chambers AM, Cunningham T, Payne JD.
Curr Top Behav Neurosci. 2014 Sep 17 

Through a variety of methods, researchers have begun unraveling the mystery of why humans spend one-third of their lives asleep. Though sleep likely serves multiple functions, it has become clear that the sleeping brain offers an ideal environment for solidifying newly learned information in the brain. Sleep, which comprises a complex collection of brain states, supports the consolidation of many different types of information. It not only promotes learning and memory stabilization, but also memory reorganization that can lead to various forms of insightful behavior. As this chapter will describe, research provides ample support for these crucial cognitive functions of sleep. Focusing on the declarative memory system in humans, we review the literature regarding the benefits of sleep for both neutral and emotionally salient declarative memory. Finally, we discuss the literature regarding the impact of sleep on emotion regulation.

Cognitive Neuroscience of Insight

The Cognitive Neuroscience of Insight
John Kounios and Mark Beeman
Annual Review of Psychology, Vol. 65: 71-93

Insight occurs when a person suddenly reinterprets a stimulus, situation, or event to produce a nonobvious, nondominant interpretation. This can take the form of a solution to a problem (an “aha moment”), comprehension of a joke or metaphor, or recognition of an ambiguous percept. Insight research began a century ago, but neuroimaging and electrophysiological techniques have been applied to its study only during the past decade. Recent work has revealed insight-related coarse semantic coding in the right hemisphere and internally focused attention preceding and during problem solving. Individual differences in the tendency to solve problems insightfully rather than in a deliberate, analytic fashion are associated with different patterns of resting-state brain activity. Recent studies have begun to apply direct brain stimulation to facilitate insight. In sum, the cognitive neuroscience of insight is an exciting new area of research with connections to fundamental neurocognitive processes.