The Importance of Sleep

OK, so this is on my mind all the time: sleep. I want it. I need it. The more the better. Cuz babies are sleep-stealers, you know. Waa, waa, waa, all night. Then they close their li'l eyes and drift off to sleep the moment your alarm goes off and you have to go to work and they end up sleeping all day. *sigh*

If you've gone through intro psych, you know a bit about sleep: circadian rhythms, stages of sleep, that kind of stuff. I hope your prof also talked about the psychological effects of sleep as well. Research since the mid-1990s has shown the critical importance of sleep to learning and remembering.

One study looked at neural activity as rats learned to go through a maze. Based on the pattern of neural activity alone, the researchers could tell where the rats were in the actual maze, tracing their route from start to finish. The electrodes were still in the rats as they slept, and the researchers continued to examine neural activity. The pattern of brain activity in sleeping rats was the same as when they were actually running through the maze. The brain seems to be replaying experiences at night when you sleep.

Studies on people show improvements in all kinds of tasks with sleep, including visual and language tasks, logic puzzles, and generally improving memories. When cut back on sleep (e.g., by staying up late or pulling an all-nighter), you're not helping your brain do it's best to form, consolidate, and strengthen the things you're trying to learn. If you're a sleepless, tired student trying to pack as much as you can into your cranium, you're missing out on a great, free, useful tool to getting better grades: blissful sleep.

Want to read more? Scientific American Mind has a great article (I love the title): Sleep on It: How Snoozing Makes You Smarter.

Why aren't you studying? (Or sleeping?)

6 comments:

Anonymous said...
on

While I am a strong advocate of a good night/late morning/early afternoon slumber, there is simply no substitute for acute short term memory overload, (and disposal, after the test of course). No matter how much I keep up with my reading during the year, it always seems to end up with me walking into the test eyes shut, mouth closed and hands over my ears so as nothing I stuffed in there during the previous 36 hours will fall out.

Lost and Learning said...
on

Sleep is good. But what do you do when you're favorite parts of the day are late evenings and early mornings? I stay up late, and get up early for work before heading to school and repeat. Of course I like sleep, but my problem is that there is not enough hours for sleep!

Karsten Loepelmann said...
on

@Lost and Learning: One word: Naps!

Lost and Learning said...
on

naps? Ive tried that, I can't sleep during the day

Anastasia said...
on

Apparently it also helps with acquiring new vocab -
http://www.physorg.com/news171875597.html

So really, if you think about it, 'tis a good thing when students sleep in class.

Karsten Loepelmann said...
on

@Anastasia: Right--except that link is about how sleep helps you learn new words. I suppose a lot of things in my courses are about learning new terms. But if you're sleeping in class when the new vocabulary is being taught, how will you learn it in the first place...? ;-)

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