How Sleep Affects Learning

sleep and learning

Memory, sleep, and learning are not completely understood by people. However, based on studies, the quantity and quality of a person’s sleep can have a huge impact on the memory and learning process.

According to research, sleep can aid in learning and memory in two ways:

  • Firstly, a sleep-deprived person cannot focus his or her attention entirely, and therefore, cannot learn efficiently.
  • Secondly, sleep has a role in the consolidation of memory. It is an important element when it comes to learning new information.

Memory and learning has three functions:

  • Consolidation which refers to the processes by which a memory becomes stable.
  • Acquisition which represents the introduction of new information to the brain.
  • Recall which refers to the ability to access the information once the brain stores it.

Each of these three functions are necessary for proper memory function. While recall and acquisition can only occur during wakefulness, a research suggests that memory consolidation takes place during sleep. As a person sleeps, the neural connection strengthens, which forms the memories.

Sleep researchers study the role of sleep and learning formation in two ways:

The first approach is by looking at the different stages of sleep, as well the changes in the duration of sleep, in response to learning a new set of tasks.

The second approach is examining how sleep deprivation affects learning. Sleep deprivation can be totally no sleep, partial or selective.

Stages of Sleep and Types of Memory

sleeping learning

There are different types of memories formed in new learning situations. Sleep scientists are exploring whether there is a relationship between the various stages of sleep and the consolidation of different types of memories.

The earliest memory and sleep research focused on declarative memory. This is where the knowledge of fact-based information or what you know (for example: What you had for breakfast or how many states there are in the United States).

In one research study, to observe if they have an increase in rapid-eye-movement (also known as REM) sleep, individuals engaged in an intensive language course. REM sleep is the stage of sleep in which dreaming occurs most frequently.

Scientists hypothesized that REM sleep played an important role in the acquisition of learned material. There are also studies that suggest that REM sleep is also involved in the declarative memory processes if the information is emotionally charged or complex, but not if the information is emotionally neutral or simple.

Researchers also hypothesize that slow-wave sleep (also known as SWS), which is the restorative, deep sleep, also plays an important role in declarative memory by consolidation and processing newly acquired information.

There are also studies that focused on sleep and its role in procedural memory. This is remembering how to do something like driving a motorbike or playing the guitar. REM sleep plays a critical role in the consolidation of procedural memory.

Other aspects of sleep that play a role in procedural memory are:

Motor learning depends on the amount of lighter stages of sleep while certain types of visual learning depends on the amount and timing of both slow-wave sleep and rapid-eye-movement sleep.

The Impact of Sleep Deprivation

poor sleep quality mental health awareness

Another area where researchers study is the impact of lack of sleep on memory and learning processes.

When a person is sleep deprived, the attention, focus, and vigilance drift. As a result, it is difficult to receive information.

Without adequate rest and sleep, the overworked neurons in the brain can no longer function properly. We then lose the ability to access previously learned information.

In addition to this, a person’s interpretation of events may also be effective. You can lose your ability to make sound decisions since you cannot accurately assess the situation, choose the correct behavior, and plan accordingly. Your judgment may also become impaired.

Being tired, to the point of exhaustion or fatigue, may also mean that you cannot perform well. Your body’s organ systems are not synchronized, the neurons are not fired optimally, and the muscles are not rested. Lack of sleep and rest may also result in injury and accidents.

Lack of sleep or suffering from low-quality sleep can also affect your mood negatively, which is connected to learning. Alterations in mood can affect the ability to acquire new information or even to remember the information you just learned.

It is clear that a good night’s sleep has a strong impact on a person’s memory and learning capabilities.

Help for a Good Night’s Sleep

sleep learn

To get a good night’s sleep, you need to regulate your core temperature.

To achieve this, you can use clothing and bedding that have natural wicking and cooling properties.

For you to enjoy a good night’s sleep, invest in a good quality pillow that can help keep your head cool, like the Bamboo Pillow. This pillow can draw heat away from the head so your body’s temperature can regulate more effectively.

A lot of sleep problems are caused by discomforts in the head and shoulder. It can cause poor circulation and muscle strains, which prevents you from getting a deep sleep. The Bamboo Pillow can hold the head snugly while, at the same time, supports the neck and the shoulders.

The Bamboo Pillow is flexible so you can create the perfect resting nook to cradle the shoulder and head. It also supports the curves of the body.

Since you get the contour that you need, the rest of the body can relax as well, thus reducing the fatigue and general strain.

Plus, the Bamboo Pillow also comes with a washable cover. The pillow is also hypoallergenic, safe for kids, pregnant women, people with sensitive skin, and even those with respiratory problems.