Mental & Emotional Health Sleep Health

How Does Sleep Affect Your Learning and Memory?

How Does Sleep Affect Learning and Memory
Written by Collins Nwokolo

By now, you must know that getting a good night sleep makes you feel better. When you sleep, your body can rest, repair, and recharge and even improve your brain’s ability to learn and remember. Sleep is also a time when your brain gets an opportunity to process all the information and consolidate long and short-term memories

So, when you don’t get enough sleep, you increase your risk of developing serious health problems like high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. It also impairs your brain’s ability to learn and retain new information. This may happen if you stay up all night cramming for an exam only to realize you can’t remember anything the following day. Without getting proper rest, your brain becomes foggy, impairs your judgment, and your motor skills.

Why is sleep Important

By consistently getting enough sleep, you not only improve your physical, mental, and emotional performance, but also your immune system, boost your metabolism, balance hormones, and improve your brain function. The reason why sleep is important in learning is that this is the best time for your brain to clean itself. Your brain cells like other cells in your body eat, reproduce, and produce waste material.

When you’re awake, your brain is very active thinking, learning, and controlling your body, which creates a lot of waste. So when you sleep, your brain can remove the waste so that there is room to repeat the same process the next day. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, the waste in your brain accumulates, which reduces your learning potential and cognitive performance.

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How your brain makes memories

There are many types of memories. Some are based on facts, and others are based on events that happen in your life, while others are based on instructions or procedures. Before something becomes a memory, three things have to happen first:

Acquisition. This is the first stage of learning when you experience or learn something new. The attention you give a certain subject will determine if that information goes to the next stage. When you’re sleep-deprived, you lack motivation, energy, mood, and you have a short attention span, which decreases your attention efficiency.

Consolidation. This is the stage where the new information is integrated into your long-term memory.

Recall. In this stage, you can retrieve any information from your memories. Your ability to remember is beneficial to your cognitive and physical skills. Sleep deprivation affects how quickly and precisely you’re able to retrieve information from your long-term memory and apply it in your life.

The acquisition and recall happen when you’re awake, but consolidation requires sleep for your brain to store any memory. Sleep not only helps to sharpen your mind, but also refine your motor skills, improve your judgment, and your physical reflexes.

How sleep works

While you’re asleep, your brain goes through different stages of sleep from light sleep, deep sleep, and rapid eye movement (REM) when you start to dream. These cycle keeps repeating itself after every 90 minutes during the night.

The non-rapid eye movement (NREM) or deep sleep is a combination of stages 3 and 4, which is the most important part of your sleep. It helps with regulating your hormones, growth, and physical renewal. If you don’t experience deep sleep, you increase your risk of being depressed, sick, or gaining weight. Without a conducive sleeping environment that is cool, dark, with a comfortable Saatva mattress that offers great support and no noise disturbances, you can’t reach deep sleep.

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During stage 3, it’s very hard to wake you up, and it’s during this time that growth hormones are released that assist your brain and body in repairing, restoring, and regenerating tissue and organs. During stage 4, your body and brains go through a deep restoration of your functions, which helps to develop your cognitive functions like memory, learning, and concentration.

Rapid eye movement or REM is the fifth stage in your sleep cycle and the most active, which helps to link together all related memories. That is why you need a good night sleep to help you process your emotional memories, which reduces the intensity of your emotions and with problem-solving. This is the time when you’re in a deep sleep right before daybreak.

A lack of REM sleep will make it harder for you to perform complex tasks and handle complications in your relationships. When your brain doesn’t get enough REM sleep, it opts for lighter sleep, so you get less REM sleep. Also, if you sleep late, your REM sleep is longer than if you had slept early. So you tend to sleep through one or two cycles instead of three or four, which affects your REM sleep.

How Does Sleep Affect Learning and Memory

Low magnesium levels interfere with your sleep

Magnesium is a very important mineral that contains properties that help you relax, which improves your sleep. During the day, it maintains hormone production like serotonin, which is responsible for your mood, appetite, regulating your sleeping cycles, and melatonin that helps to regulate your sleep. As you grow older, hormone production decreases because of your overall health and not age. By properly supplementing your magnesium intake, you increase the magnesium present in your body and increase the levels of melatonin, which helps you to sleep for longer. This reduces the nights where you don’t get enough sleep.

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Magnesium is also beneficial to your brain function. A daily intake of magnesium enhances your cognitive functions and improves your learning and memory. Your body’s internal clock and circadian rhythm also rely on the magnesium in your body to help keep them on track.

Final thoughts

Getting regular and quality sleep and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can at times be a difficult thing, especially with all the stresses you have to handle every day from your family to your work. But, you need to realize that sleep is important and your body needs it to be able to function optimally, and also to help improve your learning and memory.

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About the author

Collins Nwokolo

Collins Nwokolo is a passionate blogger and an amazing writer. He is a health and fitness enthusiast who loves sharing helpful information to people.

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