Research Suggests Sleep Is More Important To Learning Than Once Believed

A good night's sleep has been known to be the remedy for many things that we encounter with our health. According to the Sleep Foundation, sleep allows our bodies and minds to recharge and gives our brains the ability to think clearly, concentrate, and process memories. Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep while a five-year-old needs as much as ten to 13 hours of sleep each night. Not getting enough sleep has been linked to problems such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, mental health issues, obesity, high blood pressure, and even early death.

For years, researchers have been aware of the impact of sleep on learning. According to the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, sleep impacts a student's ability to learn, memorize, recall and retain information, and use new knowledge to creatively solve problems. New research shows that sleep plays an even more important role in our ability to learn than we thought.

Sleep plays a more active role in learning than previously thought

A new study published in The Journal of Neuroscience shows that late night cramming sessions could do more harm than good when it comes to learning. According to Medical News Today, researchers from Brown University and RIKEN Center for Brain Science in Japan found evidence that getting more sleep allows a person's brain more time to absorb what they learn while they are awake.

Researchers examined two models used to explain how sleep facilitates learning. According to the use-dependent model, the amount a person learns while sleeping is the result of how the brain functions while awake. Meanwhile, the learning-dependent model suggests that what a person retains during sleep is due to a neural process that is specific to learning. The study concluded that sleep facilitates learning via the learning-dependent model. Researchers viewed brain waves of participants while they napped and discovered theta activity during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and sigma activity during non-REM sleep. Theta activity is connected to learning and working memory while sigma activity is related to consolidating long-term memories (via Medical News Today).

Dr. Stella Panos, neuropsychologist and director of neuropsychology for the Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, CA, told Medical News Today, "The study suggests that sleep plays a more active role in learning and memory than we thought before, so it's really adding to some of our knowledge about how sleep and memory are related."