I've already talked about the negative effects of not getting a good night's sleep in Brainhack 23 (Sleep Well), but what about the positive effects of getting a good night's sleep?
One of the most important things is that it's YOU sleeping. What I mean is your prefrontal cortex, the centre for what makes you, you. That your personality, your decisions, your social controls – is asleep. The night is when your unconscious really does have free rein. It can do its work without interference.
Obviously part of this is making sense of the day's events and filing them away in long-term memory. But also, if there are any problems on your mind, your unconscious will work on those. A problem can seem insurmountable when you go to bed, but then when you wake up, it doesn't seem so daunting.
Here's the part of Alexander Graham Bell's quote that precedes the one at the top of the page: “I am a believer in unconscious cerebration. The brain is working all the time, though we do not know it. At night, it follows up what we think in the daytime. When I have worked a long time on one thing, I make it a point to bring all the facts regarding it together before I retire; and I have often been surprised at the results.” ...