How Sleep improves Learning

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There is a wise old saying “Sleep is that golden chain that binds the body and mind together”. This is no longer just a saying but has been scientifically proven that sleep and health are closely linked. Inadequate or disturbed sleep affects a person in many ways. It tends to not only disrupt the natural body clock but also makes us vulnerable towards lifestyle diseases like blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and heart problems.

Sleep also impacts our memory, cognitive, and learning abilities. Insufficient sleep affects the brain’s capabilities to process the three cores required for learning. A human brain processes all information through 3 different stages and impediment in any one or more stages will adversely impact one’s learning and recalling capabilities.

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Learning Stages

Stage 1-Acquisition: In this stage the brain receives new information through various sensory organs. This information is stored as a memory for further processing and analysis.

Stage 2-Consolidation: In this stage the information received throughout the day is consolidated turning useful data into memory. This is one of the most important stages of learning and is usually ignored as it happens during sleep. Quality sleep enables to strengthen the brain connections and create firm memories.

Stage 3-Recall: This is the most important stage in learning as it involves the process of tapping into information stored as a memory and recalling them.

Sleep has direct impact on how our brain performs in these 3 learning stages. The impact on the stages of Acquisition and Recall can be easily detected as sleep deprivation makes it difficult to gather and focus on the flow of information due to lack of concentration.

For example, after a late night the student may be awake in class during lecture but the probability of them understanding what is being taught and their ability to explain or answer questions related to the topic later is very low.

Of all the stages in learning, stage 2. Consolidation of memory is supposedly the most critical part of learning. Sleep deprivation impedes the brains ability to consolidate recently formed temporary memories into stable ones.


Researchers have also proven that poor sleep makes it difficult for a person to consolidate factual as well as procedural memories i.e. how to do it. For example, factual memories include memorizing what has been taught at school; whereas procedural memories could be as simple as operating a washing machine.

When a person hasn’t been sleeping well simple things can become challenging like unable to recollect the capital of your country or the button that starts the machine. Hence college and school students are often advised not to pull an all-nighter just before exams as it tends to obstruct their brain’s ability to grasp, store and recollect information.

The importance of adequate sleep is usually underrated until it manifests into a disease or a condition like depression, anxiety etc.

Like our body our mind also requires quality sleep so that we may learn and recall better not only to excel academically but in all aspects of our lives.




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