By Sharleen Dua
A good night’s rest is essential for guaranteed success- and we know that. Despite knowing that it is essential to sleep 6-8 hours a night, especially for retaining new information, we don’t do it. In fact, a third of U.S. adults are not getting enough sleep, which can be detrimental for your health. Not only is sleep necessary to function, but it can also help improve your memory and ability to learn. Studies on the effect of sleep find that a good night's rest after learning something new can improve performance and long term memory.
Getting a good night’s rest is not the only way to improve our ability to learn. Naps also play an important role in improving our ability to retain new information, as proved by a study. This study found that students who took a nap after performing a challenging task were able to perform that same task better and more efficiently than students who did not take a nap in between tasks. That is because while you sleep, some memories are being strengthened. But the benefits of the correlation of sleep and learning do not end there.
This study also found that sleeping well before you learn something new is extremely beneficial, as it allows your brain to soak in new information better. That makes sense if you think about it. With a good night’s sleep, you’re generally more aware and alert- making it easier for you to process information.
For the third of you that are not getting enough sleep, you are not only preventing yourself from improving your learning ability, but you are also making it worse. Research finds that “sleep deprivation can cut your brain’s ability to take in new information by almost 40%”. It’s just as important to get sleep before you learn something new, as it is after. So you need sleep to be able to process information when you first receive it, and you also need sleep after you learn something so you can retain it. It is crucial to go without any sleep deprivation within the first 30 hours of learning something new, and if you make this a habit, it won’t seem like a chore.
What can we learn from all of this?
Learn new things before you sleep (and then get a good night’s rest after)
Avoid sleep deprivation and schedule in sleep between learning new information and performing an activity related to retaining that information (such as an exam)
Make sure you get at least 7 hours of sleep each night- especially before and after you learn something new
With this lifestyle change, you will always be ready to learn something new, and remember it for life.