We’ve all been there. All-nighters studying for exams, early morning alarms to cram in those last statistics, dates, or formulas. But what if we told you using those extra hours to sleep instead could help you study better, remember more, and perform much, much better academically? Not to mention, make you less grumpy and tired 💤
Healthy sleep is crucial for memory function. Neuroscience studies suggest that how much (and how well) we sleep has a deep impact on learning and memory in two ways. The first is obvious: a sleep-deprived person can’t focus or absorb information properly. The second is somewhat more complex, and has to do with the role that sleep plays in the consolidation of memory (very important when tackling new information)!
While you sleep, your brain goes through different sleep cycles: light sleep, deep sleep, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep (that’s where your dreams occur)! when dreaming often occurs. The cycles repeat about every 90 minutes. During the non-REM stages, your brain is thought to prime itself for good learning the next day. Sleeping well could increase your ability to learn new things by 40%.
💡FYI: the part of the brain responsible for making new memories is called the hippocampus.
According to sleep expert Dr. Robert Stickgold of Harvard Medical School, the memories we form during the day are in a very raw and fragile form. It’s when we sleep that memories are strengthened. In fact, an MIT study concluded that an improvement in test scores is only attainable if students prioritise sleep throughout the entire learning process, not just the night before a big test. According to Stickgold, when it comes to sleep and memory, “you get very little benefit from cutting corners.”
Thankfully, there are a number of tried and tested hacks to help you improve your sleeping habits.
Best Sleeping Practices
- Routine: going to sleep and waking up at the same time is immensely beneficial. Make yourself a nice nighttime routine: a nice cup of tea, a calming playlist, maybe even invest in nice pyjamas to signal to your mind and body that it’s ZZZ time.
- Limit stimulants. Try not to drink caffeine in the afternoon, and avoid using your devices 1-2 hours before bedtime.
- Exercise (at the right time) to ensure you aren’t going to bed with lots of leftover energy.
- Sleep snacks. Certain foods and drinks contain minerals and properties that can help you doze off. A few examples: turkey (contains tryptophan, which increases the production of melatonin), almonds (source of magnesium), or chamomile tea (contains apigenin, which can promote sleepiness).
In summary: sleep research from the last 20 years indicates that sleep does more than simply provide the energy you need to study and ace your tests, sleep actually helps you learn, memorise, retain, recall, and utilise new knowledge to come up with creative and innovative solutions.
How do you fall asleep? Share your tips below!