While the relationship between sleep, learning and memory is not yet fully understood, research indicates that that sleep effects both in two ways. In the first instance, when someone is sleep deprived, they are unable to focus their attention which means they are unable to learn efficiently. In the second instance, sleep appears to play a vital role in the consolidation of memory. For memory to function at optimum levels, three steps need to take place:
- Acquisition of the information
- Consolidation of the information
- Recall of the information
If the brain skips one of these steps, it is unable to effectively retain what it has learned. While the first and third steps occur during wakefulness, the second step is thought to occur during sleep, when your brain processes all the information from the day and forms memories. This might not come as a shock to anyone who has pulled an all-nighter before an exam, only to find that they are unable to recall certain facts and figures the next day.
Although science can’t yet explain how sleep improves memory and learning, it does appear to involve the parts of the brain where long-term memories are stored, the hippocampus and neocortex. Scientists believe that during sleep, the hippocampus plays the events of the day for the neocortex, which then reviews and processes the information and creates memories from it.
Studies have shown that different types of memories are formed during different stages of sleep. For example, fact-based information tends to be stored in the brain during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep, indicating that this stage plays a vital role in the acquisition of new facts. REM sleep also appears to help consolidate procedural memories, i.e. the remembering of how to do something.
Research indicates that taking a short nap after learning something new could help your brain to process the information more quickly and effectively, however this all depends on whether you manage to achieve an REM stage of sleep during that time.
When we are sleep deprived, we deny our brains the chance to fully retain any information acquired during the day. This can lead to a skewed recollection of events which can also impact on our abilities to make decisions. The best way to avoid becoming sleep deprived is to manage your sleep cycles effectively, so as to avoid missing out on important stages of forming memories.
If you would like to find out more about how REM-Fit sleep monitoring technology can help you to get a better night’s rest, please get in touch with our experienced, knowledgeable staff by calling 020 8731 0020 or email us via email@example.com.