Anyone who cares about your well-being will tell you the same thing: sleep is healthy and you should get more of it. It gives your immune system a fighting chance, makes you less of an asshole, and keeps you beautiful.
But recent research shows that your sleep habits also leave a tangible impression on how your brain forms memories, specifically through signals scientists call "sleep spindles," or "Princess Leia brainwaves." They knit your memories together like a Jedi Mind Trick.
"You take in all this sensory experience during your day," says Lyle Muller, a researcher at the Salk Institute’s Computational Neurobiology Laboratory. "Somehow, your brain decides to save the memory for long-term storage."
Doing that is tricky, thanks to the complexities of your brain -- a mess of signals firing bits of information at each other several times a second, in visual, auditory, olfactory, emotional, or any other category you're capable of perceiving.
Sleep spindles help consolidate that information into memories you can recall, and they look like rotating buns moving across your cortex, which is why they're named after Princess Leia. Terrence Sejnowski, a theoretical neuroscientist one of the pioneers who began studying them decades ago, coined the phrase, and led this latest study. "When he saw the movie, he immediately said, 'We're calling them Princess Leia waves,'" Muller says.