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About Sleep’s Role in Memory – Why It Matters

Improve your memory by sleeping better, starting today. Read on to discover how poor sleep can lead to memory loss and how sleep and memory are linked.

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It’s amazing just how much good sleep can help people feel fresh and ready to take upon various daily challenges. The importance of sleep dates back to the old days.

Even in medieval times, people understood the importance of sleep. Even, the medieval philosopher Thomas Aquinas once wrote that “sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep.”

Today, we know that this belief isn’t far from the truth. It’s no secret that a good night’s sleep makes you feel better.

Moreover, deep sleep can help the body recharge and rest and even support the brain activity to learn and remember.

During sleep, the body has one main function – to rest.

Did you know that you can lose calories while sleeping?

About Sleep’s Role in Memory

The relationship between sleep and memory has been fascinating people for centuries.

The very first serious research on sleep started in the early 19th century when people realized that their cognitive possibilities are better after a good night’s sleep.

People realized that sleep, learning, and complex phenomena are hard to understand entirely, and the question is if we will ever understand it completely.

Both in animals and humans, the quantity and quality of sleep have a strong effect on learning and memory.

We all know that a sleep-deprived person cannot focus and cannot learn efficiently.

We also know that sleep itself has a role in the consolidation of memory, which is essential for learning new information.

What Is Memory?

When we talk about memory, we are actually talking about specific processes that are used to acquire, store, retain, and later retrieve information. When it comes to memory, three major processes are involved in memory:

  • Encoding
  • Storage, and
  • Retrieval

Human memory is very specific because it involves saving and recovering information we have once experienced or have learned. Although the human body is a perfect machine, it’s not without flaws.

Therefore, memory by itself isn’t a flawless process, so we sometimes forget things because they are not properly encoded in memory in the first place.

Memory-related problems can range from minor annoyances like where are your keys or whats the name of that person from 20 years ago, to serious memory-related issues, such as Alzheimer’s and other kinds of dementia, that can severely affect the quality of life, ability to function, and eventually health.

The study and understanding of human memory have been a subject of science and philosophy for thousands of years and has become one of the major topics of interest within cognitive psychology.

How Memories Are Formed

Memories are information, so in order to form new memories, information must transform into a usable form, which occurs through the process known as encoding.

Once the information has been successfully encoded, it must be stored in memory for later use.

The stored memory lies outside of our awareness the majority of the time, except when we need to use it. Therefore, the retrieval process allows us to bring stored memories into conscious awareness.

How Long Do Memories Last?

So far you know that not all memories last the same period of time. Some memories are brief, while some last for few seconds only, while some are life-long.

The one thing that’s common to these memories, no matter how long they are, they have the same function to allow us to take in sensory information about the world around us.

Short-term memories are long and they can last for 20 to 30 seconds and they mostly consist of the information we are currently focusing on and thinking about. Then, some memories are capable of lasting for days, weeks, months, or even decades.

These memories are named long-term memories and they lie outside of our immediate awareness, but we can draw them into consciousness when they are needed.

Sleep Deprivation and Memory Loss

Again, we all know that a good night’s sleep helps you feel better and restful.

Not only does sleep give your body time to rest and recharge, but its also a crucial component to your brain’s ability to learn and remember.

During sleep, your body rests and your brain is busy processing information from the day and forming memories.

So, if you are sleep deprived, you are at high risk of developing a number of various health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension.

Also, your ability to learn and retain new information may be affected.

Now, you may wonder how students can manage to pull an all-nighter and still perform academically? The truth is that pulling an all-nighter isn’t so difficult, and you may even feel fresh for some time the following day, but you will need days to recover from disturbing your sleep schedule.

Sleep plays a crucial role in learning and memory, which is why researchers believe that sleep affects learning and memory in two different but linked ways where lack of sleep affects a person’s ability to focus and learn. Furthermore, sleep is necessary to consolidate a memory so it can be recalled in the future.

There is still so much to be learned about sleep and human brain activity, meaning there is still more to be discovered about the link between sleep and memory.

So far, we know that sleep includes certain stages, and some studies have shown that certain types of memories become stable during REM sleep – the time when you dream.

Other studies have shown that some memories are secure during slow-wave. Another firm fact is that sleep is a biological necessity, we basically need it to survive.

Unfortunately, not a lot of people actually know how much sleep do they need per age, and often, due to hectic work-life schedule, they don’t have enough time to invest in sleep.

An adult person should aim to sleep every night between seven to nine hours, each night.

Sleep Tips

If you want at the same time to sleep better and improve your memory, you can do so by applying simple and effective sleep tips.

Here are the most effective tips that you incorporate into your sleep routine today:

  • Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day
  • Get regular exercise, but avoid heavy exercise before your bedtime
  • Avoid alcohol and nicotine before going to sleep
  • If you have to drink coffee, learn at what time its’ the best to do so
  • Have unwind moments before going to sleep. Read a book, take a warm bath, drink some tea that promotes sleep, and avoid any type of activity that can cause tension
  • Avoid eating close to bedtime
  • Have a proper sleeping room environment: set the right temperature, make the room dark, and make the room comfortable
  • If needed, use a sound machine, or any other type of white noise device to isolate unwanted sounds
  • Avoid screening before sleep and if possible keep your bedroom devices-free

Sleep routine is important when it comes to proper sleep. You can sleep better when you are organized and know how much sleep do you need based on your age.

Next to good nutrition and regular exercise, a proper bed and wake schedule can help you sleep better and feel fresher during the day.

The Bottom Line

We all think best when we are well-rested, and that’s a fact. An alert brain will allow us to learn, focus, and remember information.

So, when we are sleepy, our brains tend to slow down and push us to make more mistakes and be less productive.

If you need better memory, stronger focus, and more productivity, you need to arrange your sleep schedule better and sleep sounder.

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