Sleep & Learning

Researches have shown that adequate sleep has such an important positive impact on  learning and improving memory.The following  article describes the relationship between these subjects with more details.

 The Learning Process and Sleep

Sleep, learning, and memory are complex phenomena that are not entirely understood. However, animal and human studies suggest that the quantity and quality of sleep have a profound impact on learning and memory. Research suggests that sleep helps learning and memory in two distinct ways. First, a sleep-deprived person cannot focus attention optimally and therefore cannot learn efficiently. Second, sleep itself has a role in the consolidation of memory, which is essential for learning new information.

Although the exact mechanisms are not known, learning and memory are often described in terms of three functions. Acquisition refers to the introduction of new information into the brain.Consolidation represents the processes by which a memory becomes stable. Recall refers to the ability to access the information (whether consciously or unconsciously) after it has been stored.

Each of these steps is necessary for proper memory function. Acquisition and recall occur only during wakefulness, but research suggests that memory consolidation takes place during sleep through the strengthening of the neural connections that form our memories. Although there is no consensus about how sleep makes this process possible, many researchers think that specific characteristics of brainwaves during different stages of sleep are associated with the formation of particular types of memory.

The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Learning and Performance

Another area that researchers study is the impact that a lack of adequate sleep has on learning and memory. When we are sleep deprived, our focus, attention, and vigilance drift, making it more difficult to receive information. Without adequate sleep and rest, over-worked neurons can no longer function to coordinate information properly, and we lose our ability to access previously learned information.

In addition, our interpretation of events may be affected. We lose our ability to make sound decisions because we can no longer accurately assess the situation, plan accordingly, and choose the correct behavior. Judgment becomes impaired.

Being chronically tired to the point of fatigue or exhaustion means that we are less likely to perform well. Neurons do not fire optimally, muscles are not rested, and the body’s organ systems are not synchronized. Lapses in focus from sleep deprivation can even result in accidents or injury.

Low-quality sleep and sleep deprivation also negatively impact mood, which has consequences for learning. Alterations in mood affect our ability to acquire new information and subsequently to remember that information. Although chronic sleep deprivation affects different individuals in a variety of ways (and the effects are not entirely known), it is clear that a good night’s rest has a strong impact on learning and memory.



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