5 Interesting facts about sleep and how it affects learning

World Sleep Day is an annual event with the purpose to bring awareness about the importance of sleep in our everyday life and society.

The role that sleep has in our life is often underrated or worse sometimes sleeping less is associated with being successful and productive. So let’s go through 5 interesting facts about sleep and maybe if you are reading this very late at night it will make you chuckle.

Our mood

Is like a chain reaction that ends with unwanted results. Sleep deprivation has been linked to anger, sadness, frustration, irritability and for people that have constant issues with sleep, the situation can get way more serious affecting their mental health.
It seems obvious that having a bad mood can kind of ruin our day, but many of us forget how important is in the long run and how we can improve our productivity by taking care of our sleep.

Our memory

Researchers have been studying the process of sleep for a long time, many things are happening during our sleep that are still unexplainable. One of them is that our sleep has a role in consolidating the memory. When we sleep there is a sort of re-printing of the informations in our memory to make them solid in our brain and this is very important in learning new information.
When the sleep cycle is disrupted, the process of consolidation of the memory during the night is affected with the result of being forgetful and struggling to learn or remember new information.

Sleep is active

When we think about sleep we often think about something still or motionless, but sleep is a very active process. Generally, sleep is starting with an NREM stage which is a period of lighter sleep that becomes gradually deeper while our body temperature drops and the heart rate begins to slow to enter the REM stage where our brain is very active and our body is mostly immobilized. After the REM stage, we may think that our sleep cycle has finished and we are ready to wake up, but the transaction from NREM and REM last only about 1,5 or 2 hours, so what exactly happens after the REM stages has ended?

The answer is simple, we keep repeating alternating the NREM and REM phase 5 or 6 times during the night making sleep a very dynamic process rather than still and quiet.

Also has been shown that learning and memory are especially linked to the very first stage of NREM and the very last stage of REM which is the one before we wake up drawing attention to the need of having a full night’s sleep.

The all-nighter myth

It may happen to many of us that we spent all night awake to have more time to learn before an exam or an assignment. Well, this is more a myth than reality, sacrificing the night on books is sacrificing the chances of performing well. For the principle of consolidating the memory that has been mentioned before, spending the night trying to learn more is way worse than learning less and having a good sleep.
The best thing to do after learning something is sleep as the brain is integrating the information in our memory. Interestingly studies have shown that students that spend more time during the night depriving sleep think to have performed better and put more effort into activities than others with the result that they have performed worse.

Motor skills

Sleep affects also how we learn in terms of motor skills. The memory is impacted in how our different parts of the body are coordinating, it may not be a lot noticeable to whoever is not doing many activities, but an athlete’s performance would be massively affected by sleep deprivation. However, doing sports activities or movements is one part of the cycle of a healthy lifestyle. The connection between sleep, movement and a healthy diet has been the subject of many studies and has been observed that these three elements are fundamental for our mental and physical health, and all of the three can influence each other disrupting the cycle that makes us feel good.

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