The Science Behind Sleep and Memory
Sleep experts believe that while we’re asleep, memories and even skills are transferred to more efficient and permanent regions of the brain, leading to better productivity at work the next day. More so, scientists also believe we might be able to hold on longer to old information, learn new things, and even synthesize fresh ideas, while we sleep.
Think about it. If you’re feeling exhausted during the day and you take a quick nap...what happens? Of course, you wake up feeling refreshed -- able to pick up where you left off -- with a sharper, brighter mind, right? Well, that’s because we think best when we’re well-rested.
Good sleep vs. Poor sleep
When you’ve had a good night’s sleep or have had time to power-nap during the day, the result is a clear, alert brain that optimizes your ability to focus, learn new things, remember information quickly, and be more creative.
No wonder when you’re groggy from lack of sleep -- you forget things easily, make mistakes often, and are usually less productive at work or in school.
Sleep is good for non-humans too!
Take your laptop or smart devices for instance. Do you notice that as the day wears on and you keep tapping away on them, they get less and less productive...and even annoyingly sluggish? How about if you switch them off as you go to sleep and power them on as you wake up? Yeah, they perform much better, right? Well, if your digital devices respond well to “sleep,” how much more you!
Healthy sleep puts you in the right frame of mind to retain information as you go about your day’s activities. Not to mention, you need a good night’s sleep so your brain can process as well as retain that information over the long-term.
Sleep and memory
Researchers have put the relationship between sleep and memory to test by teaching people new skills and then scanning their brains a while later, with and without sleep.
They discovered that the part of the brain that controls speed and accuracy were more active for those who had had a chance to sleep after learning a skill -- than those who didn’t.
In fact, research shows that sleeping shortly after learning a skill can help retention. When people learn and then go to sleep or take a nap, they remember what they learn better in the long-term.
More interesting is the fact that people have reported sleeping with a nagging problem only to wake up with a solution! Perhaps, pieces of information were pulled from different experiences in the past -- from relevant parts of the brain -- to tackle the problem head-on, while you slept.
Sleep constitutes about a third of our lives...and research strongly suggests sleep is super important for learning and forming long term memories.
The Power of Sleep
More and more studies continue to show the critical role sleep plays in learning and memory. In fact, researchers believe that sleep affects learning and memory in two ways:
- Lack of sleep affects a person's ability to focus and learn efficiently
- Sleep is necessary for retention so that what has been learned can be recalled easily in the future
While the science behind sleep and memory continues to evolve, it is clear that the brain needs adequate sleep to process the day’s information, sort through our experiences -- so we can remember and function at our best - and be at our most creative mode - the next day.
So, that’s it folks -- but before you go…
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