From A – Zzz: How Sleep and Learning are Related

February 21, 2014

Sleep and Learning

It’s not uncommon to find yourself procrastinating and cramming. Those usually result in sleepless nights, and if you’re fortunate enough to get some sleep, it’s commonly a maximum of 4 hours that night.

You have those deadlines coming at you, and each tick of the clock indicates that you are ever one step closer to meeting that deadline. You might be regretting, thinking to yourself why do I only have to do this now?! But you can’t do anything about it anymore. It’s like spilled milk. There’s no use in crying over it.

So you gather up your courage and whatever’s left from a messy pile of responsibility that you have and you move on. Onwards! At least you still have a chance in studying and learning, right? But… do you really? Is it worth being deprived of the rest that a comfortable mattress can give you?

Learning is defined as the acquisition, reinforcement, or modification of information. That “information” can be various behaviour, skills, belief, etc. One may think that this is a completely different league from sleeping, but remember that both are bodily functions. Your brain is actually responsible for both things. Sorry to break it to you, but sleep and learning are much related. In that case, how does sleep affect learning?

Brain Function

Your brain retains and acquires information best when fully rested

Other than dreaming and keeping your organs operating all the time so that you don’t die, the brain does a few more important things while you sleep. That includes resting, of course. It’s hard to imagine and understand how the brain operates and “rests” at the same time, but that’s what you need.

Being deprived of sleep negatively affects your cognitive function, your attention span, and ability to concentrate. These things are basically what escape you when you’re groggy. It’s pretty obvious why you learn less when you sleep less.

It’s impossible to learn without memorizing

Whatever it is, whether muscle action patternor systematic academic learning, you need to memorize a certain configuration in order to effectively learn. Sleep is related to learning because learning is the other side of memory. Take the example of a cramming college student that puts up all-nighters a few hours before midterm exams.

You’re going to make it much harder for yourself to memorize and bring up something from the shelves of your brain if you try to go through a night without sleep. This is just doubly difficult if you’re trying to memorize something and bring it up without sleep in between. Without memory, there can be no learning. Without retention, you can’t bring something up.

Having sufficient deep sleep improves your performance.

A study shows that a good night’s sleep, which of course involves sleeping in a comfortable environment with nice pillows and with the right temperature and sound, results in an increase in cognitive abilities.

This allows you to make better decisions, which increases productivity. Learning is only the first stroke in the picture since without the ensuing actions that you make, learning will prove to be futile without the proper application. An increase in the quality of your overall performance is, without a doubt, beneficial.

Now that you’ve learned something today, and since you’ll basically keep learning for the rest of your life, you know that it’s best to just reward yourself with a comfortable good night’s sleep. I mean, that’s really easy. The key to performing better is sleeping! So just lie down on your comfortable mattress and relax. Sweet dreams and keep learning.