To be the top performer in an academic environment, in other words a Dux, you must catch some zzzzz’s. Both the quantity and quality of sleep are fundamental to learning and memory function. Sleep impacts learning and memory by improving your level of focus and concentration, and consolidating your memory.
Sleep, Learning, and Memory
There are three aspects to learning and memory:
- “Acquisition refers to the introduction of new information into the brain” which requires focus.
- “Recall refers to the ability to access the information (whether consciously or unconsciously) after it has been stored” and requires concentration.
- “Consolidation represents the processes by which a memory becomes stable” (moves from your short-term memory to your long-term memory) by strengthening the neural connections which form memories and can only be done during sleep.
“Some people talk in their sleep. Lecturers talk while other people sleep.” Albert Camus
The Science Behind This
Researchers have studied both the various stages of sleep (and variations in their duration) with regard to learning different types of tasks; and examined how sleep deprivation (total, partial, or selective) affects learning.
“Different types of memories are formed in new learning situations. Scientists are exploring whether there is a relationship between the consolidation of different types of memories and the various stages of sleep.”
The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Your Performance
Physiologically, when you are fatigued, your neurons do not fire properly, muscles get tired, and your organ systems fall out of sync – which is why accidents and injury are often the result of sleep deprivation.
Being tired makes it more difficult for you to take in information because your focus, attention, and vigilance are diminished. Additionally, your judgement is negatively affected because your poor neurons are so over-worked that they cannot co-ordinate data properly to assess situations accurately.
Not only is your performance impaired when you have not had sufficient sleep…. How cranky are you!? Guess what? Fluctuations in mood reduces your ability to recall what you are learning.
“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?” Ernest Hemingway
While chronic sleep deprivation impacts individuals differently and the exact “how” may still be a bit fuzzy, it is clear that sleep greatly influences studying and memory. So do yourself a favour, and get some beauty sleep.
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