During sleep, while your body rests, your brain is busy processing information from the day and forming memories. If you are sleep deprived, you are at risk of developing a number of serious health problems, such as hypertension, obesity, and diabetes, and your ability to learn and retain new information may be impaired.
This may not be news to anyone who has pulled an all-nighter cramming for a test only to find the facts and figures they knew at 2 a.m. could not be recalled the next day. Without adequate sleep, your brain becomes foggy, your judgment poor, and your fine motor skills hindered.
The Power of Sleep
Imaging and behavioral studies continue to show the critical role sleep plays in learning and memory. Researchers believe that sleep affects learning and memory in two ways:
- Lack of sleep impairs a person’s ability to focus and learn efficiently.
- Sleep is necessary to consolidate a memory (make it stick) so that it can be recalled in the future.
There are different types of memories. Some are fact-based, such as remembering the name of state capitals. Some are episodic — based on events in your life, such as your first kiss. And some memories are procedural or instructional, such as how to ride a bike or play the piano.