Alaska Sleep Education Center

How Sleep Cycles Make Better Students

Posted by Melissa Hill on Jan 13, 2020 11:21:46 AM

Sleep Cycles for Studying: Learn How to Utilize Brain Features to Memorize Things Faster

Black-haired woman studying in the library

We all have heard about the importance of healthy sleep thousands of times. Though it seems to be a well-known fact, even now, many people have a misconception about why it is so critical. 

Let's start with an obvious – some decent rest is needed to give our bodies time to recharge and rest. Needless to say that it also makes you feel better and sets the right mood. However, there is much more to it than seems from first sight!

Another reason why it is so important is the fact that proper rest helps our body function properly. Sleep deprivation puts you at risk of developing serious health issues, including diabetes, hypertension, obesity, etc. Yet, even that’s not all.

One of the most significant negative impacts of lack of sleep is that it can impair your brain’s ability to learn and retain information. It makes your motor skills hindered, and your mind unfocused. 

Why does this happen? At night, when your body rests, the brain keeps working. It processes all the information collected throughout the day and forms memories.

Knowing this is especially important for students. We all know how many young people prefer to pull an all-nighter, cramming for an exam. Though it may sound like a time-tested strategy, it is not. 

The facts and information you study at night will likely not be recalled the next day. This is why studying at night often doesn’t make sense at all.

How to boost your memory with the help of healthy rest and start studying better? In this article, we are going to look closer at this matter and give you a set of tips that can help you utilize sleep cycles for a more efficient work of your brain. Let’s dive in!

 

 

The Connection Between Studying and Sleep

“Healthy rest is an integral part of a human’s body and brain function, as well as overall wellbeing. Getting enough rest, you can become more productive, focused, and recall things easier. 

This is why cramming for tests at night doesn’t really make sense," - says Katherine Smith, a professional academic writer from EssayPro. “Besides, in some cases, learning while napping can speed up the memory consolidation process and actually make you memorize things much faster than you would normally do” - she continues.

Many studies conducted on both animals and people suggest that the quality, as well as the quantity of rest, have a direct impact on a brain’s memorizing and learning abilities. Taking a sneak-peek behind this complicated matter, we can outline the following key facts:

  • Lack of rest results in a lack of motivation, bad mood, our judgment abilities, and it also influences our perception of events;
  • Healthy night rest is crucial for optimal learning and memory function of our brain;
  • Rest plays a vital role in memory, as it helps our brain to retain new information better both before and after learning the facts.

Even today, phenomena like sleep, memory, and learning are still not entirely understood. At this point, researchers and scientists have many questions that remain unanswered.

However, there is something we know for sure - there are two main ways in whichTired student having a lot to read in a library napping can help you study better. First of all, lack of proper rest decreases your ability to focus, which makes your study sessions ineffective. Secondly, it has been proven that our brain is consolidating memory at different sleep cycles.

This means that you need to rest properly to be able to recall the information you’ve learned.

 

Understanding Sleep Cycles

Before we can move on and figure out how different stages of sleep influence our ability to learn, let’s first understand what cycles are there and how each of them is different.

In most cases, scientists outline the two main stages of our rest. Namely, these are NREM and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. The first type is also considered as light sleep, and it consists of the following stages:

  • The eye movement slows down, while the brain produces alpha and theta waves. This is the lightest stage of sleep that also doesn’t last too long (about 7 minutes). During this stage, a person remains alert and can wake up easily;
  • At this stage, the frequency of brain waves increases and then slows down. This stage is also pretty light, but it can last longer than the previous one. As a rule, when we get a power nap, that the stage after which we wake up;
  • At this stage, our brain starts producing slower delta waves, as we are moving towards the phase of deep sleep. At this point, waking up can be pretty hard because that’s when the body begins restoring energy. Also, this stage is responsible for growth, development, and immune-boosting processes.

After all these stages, we are finally diving into REM sleep. As a rule, this happens about 90 minutes after you fall asleep, and this is the deepest and the longest part of our rest. 

An adult person, on average, has 5-6 stages of REM sleep, and each can last up to an hour. That’s why scientists say that a person needs at least 7 hours of rest every night.

The REM phase is responsible for the majority of vital brain functions. During each of its stages, the brain becomes more active. It processes and consolidates information gained from the previous day. 

That’s how information is transmitted to our long-term memory. Therefore, you can say that this stage is the most important for learning and memorizing material.

Now, let’s look at different types of memory. Although there are many, in terms of studying, we should make an accent on declarative and procedural types. 

The first one, declarative memory, stands for all fact-based knowledge. Procedural memory, on the contrary, stands for remembering how to do something.

REM sleep plays a critical role in the consolidation of both types of memory discussed above, which is why this phase is the most important. This basically explains why each of us needs long and quality rest each night to let our memory function properly.

 

How to Utilize Brain Features for Learning?

Based on everything that has been said earlier, we can conclude that getting healthy 7-hour (or longer) sleep each night helps your brain to process and store the information you’ve learned throughout the day. 

Also, being fully rested, you can feel better, more focused, and, thus, study the next day more effectively. These facts prove the significant impact sleep has on our memory. However, even that’s not all!

Neuroscientists from the Northwestern University of Chicago insist that students can forget about pulling all-nighters at all. They claim that you can actually learn while you are sleeping.

The scientists found that students can cram for tests using their unconscious brain. The trick is to force your brain to build a set of memories faster by nurturing it with the needed information while you remain unconscious.

In the course of the study, scientists have presented a group of participants diagrams that showed how to play two simple melodies on the piano. Then, participants were given some time to practice both melodies and were asked to take a 90-minute nap. 

While they were napping, scientists played one of those melodies. After waking up, most participants were able to play the melody accurately.

The study proves that we can re-activate and strengthen our memory while we are sleeping by playing sounds, audio-books, melodies, etc. 

So, this is a trick you can also use to study more effectively using the power of your brain!

 

The Bottom Line

As you now know, studying and resting are closely connected to each other. It is impossible to stay effective if you don’t get enough sleep.

Therefore, be sure to give your brain enough time to rest and refresh in order to memorize things faster and use the tips given in this article for even better results!

At Alaska Sleep Clinic, we work with students of all ages with different sleep issues.  If changing your bedtime routine doesn't help you feel rested, you or your child may have a sleep disorder.  Call us today @ 907-770-9104 to speak with one of our board-certified sleep specialists.

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