The importance of good night sleep for our memory is proven by many researches. The quantity and quality of sleep have a profound impact on our learning and memory.

Sleep and Memory

Recent neuro-scientific researches show that human brain registers and records knowledge during sleep. If the brain doesn’t get enough sleep, this information is lost and can’t be recalled. Sleep-deprived people cannot have optimal focus, therefore, cannot learn efficiently.


Sleep, Memory and Learning Cycle 

Each day’s experience is registered in hippocampus, part of the brain which stores short term memory. Then the information is moved from there to prefrontal cortex during sleep. If the brain is not in sleep mode, that process gets interrupted. The higher parts of the brain get involved for linking the information with previous or future recordings, which is essential for correct judgement and problem solving. Sleep cleans up the hippocampus so we can record fresh information every day.


Sleep, Memory and Information Retention 

The brain also shows 3 second short spikes of activity during sleep, which are called “Sleep Spindles”. The streaming activity between hippocampus and higher brain centers create these sleep spindles. People with more sleep spindles can retain learned information better and remember more easily.


Sleep and Children’s Learning Development

It is shown that children have more sleep spindles than adults, which explains why kids learn quicker as well. Pre-school age children who get daytime naps have shown better vocabulary growth, generalization of the meaning of words and abstraction in language learning.

Clearly, for children as well as adults, prolonged sleep isn’t a sign of laziness. It is critical for our brain’s connections and our body’s rhythms. In fact, sleep continues to be important for memory and learning throughout your lifetime.

Recent national statistics show millions of Canadian school kids are sleep deprived. This not only causes long-term health consequences but also leads to poor academic performance and mental instability. 


Sleep Deprivation and Depressive Symptoms

Without adequate sleep and rest, over-worked neurons can no longer function to coordinate information properly, and we lose our ability to access previously learned information. 

Sleep deprivation can also cause depressive symptoms which can alter our ability to learn.

All these examples show that in order to have effective learning and memory skills, everyone needs a good night’s sleep.


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Author: Dr. Tina Ureten