You’ve certainly heard the old adage how you need between 7-8 hours of sleep at night for optimal health. This rests your body and your brain adequately, providing much needed recovery time. Research shows that with better sleep, you will think more clearly, be more focused and more productive during the day.
The Learning Process and Sleep
Sleep, memory and learning are all connected. Studies on humans and other animals suggest that the quality and quantity of sleep you get make a significant impact on memory and learning. A person who is sleep-deprived cannot focus their attention properly, affecting the learning process. Sleep also plays a crucial role in the consolidation of memory, essential to learning new information and skills.
Memory and learning are frequently described in terms of three functions:
1.) Acquisition- new information is introduced to the brain.
2.) Consolidation- the processes where a memory becomes stable.
3.) Recall- the ability to pull up information either consciously or unconsciously once it has been stored.
Memory, attention and learning are the most significantly studied cognitive skills in sleep deprivation research. Attention and memory are connected to the frontal lobe functions of the brain.
Because the frontal brain areas are the most vulnerable to sleep deprivation, studies show that the three functions of learning: acquisition, consolidation and recall, are impaired during prolonged wakefulness and lack of sleep. These studies are well established and documented.
What is Going on up There?
When you lack proper sleep, your attention, focus and vigilance drift, making it difficult to receive, process and retain information. Your interpretation of events might also be affected, causing you to lose your ability to make sound and smart decisions.
Judgment is impaired when you can no longer accurately process the situation, plan accordingly or choose the proper behavior. Without adequate sleep, over-worked neurons cannot function to coordinate information correctly. Neurons do not fire ideally, muscles are not rested and the body’s organ systems cannot synchronize.
In a nutshell, sleep keeps the nervous and endocrine systems in tip-top shape and working together optimally.
What Does the Doctor Order?
For one thing, doctors recommend getting in bed slightly earlier and sleeping a little later. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a study showing that in the mornings young people need more time to sleep.
Research shows that when students are fully rested, they are more alert and ready to learn. They suggest that starting school and work just half an hour later can allow people to sleep in later and be better capable of focusing and absorbing new information.
They prescribe a quiet, dark, cool environment and recommend not leaving the TV on while you sleep. Low, quiet music can be helpful in inducing a deep, peaceful sleep, but the television actually impedes the deep REM sleep your body and mind need.
It’s not a secret that your body and mind function optimally after a good night’s sleep. Research proves that as you sleep, your mind reviews and recaps what you’ve learn, allowing your brain to retain it.
The same research showed that just two weeks of limited sleep, approximately four hours per night, creates a brain deficit equally as severe as that of people who hadn’t slept at all for three consecutive nights.
As lack of sleep continues, memory, attention and other cognitive functions suffer greatly, creating a sleep deficit. Regular sleep deprivation is biologically equal to consistently spending more money than you have. Make sure you are at your best each day by getting plenty of good sleep.