Memory and Sleep

Sleep is important for a number of reasons. Good health is what most often comes to mind, but sleep may go beyond helping you feel good. A good night’s rest or a nap may help you retain memories. Some studies are showing that learned information is solidified in your brain while you sleep.

Learning While You Sleep

You may have heard of programs that help people learn a new language or other new information in their sleep. These programs usually require playing recordings of the information while you sleep. Unfortunately, it is not likely that your brain can absorb new information while you sleep, but sleeping can help you remember things you have learned during the day.


Two Studies

A recent study in several groups of people tested their ability to retain information. Each person was asked to learn twenty random pairings of words. Some were asked to demonstrate the word groups they could remember, the same day, before they were allowed to sleep, and others in the morning, after they had a full night of sleep. The study showed that those who had slept outperformed those who hadn’t slept, only by a little. However, the experiment was done again, this time the groups were given a new set of words to remember shortly before being asked to recall the old set of words. When remembering the old set of words, the group that had a night of sleep did much better than the group that recalled the information the same day, without sleep.  Based on the study, research concludes that, “Memories after sleep are resilient to disruption.”

Sleeping Well

So, when you learn something new, the research seems to show that you will greatly benefit from a nap or a night of sleep.  If you have an exam or big presentation, pulling an all-nighter to prepare, instead of sleeping, may hurt more than it will help. Your brain will be better able to recall learned material, regardless of the day’s other interruptions, after a full night of sleep.  All the more reason to get the best night of rest possible!


Photo “Female Anatomy Brain and Lung Embroidery Hoop Art” courtesy of spectacles.

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