Alaska Sleep Education Center

Why is learning efficiency directly related to sleep quality?

Posted by Laura Fields on Apr 19, 2021 4:33:00 AM

Woman sleeping after a long day.

The human brain is amazing. It creates all those things we see on the web, as extra essay review, memory boost games, riddles and all kinds of puzzles we can use to develop our brains and help ourselves throughout the day-to-day life. Now, we all now how hard learning is. And we are certainly sure you’ve felt overwhelmed sometimes. We found out that it is vital for students to get a good sleep. This boosts their performance in learning. But why is that? How does sleep help our minds other than giving them a break? That is what we are going to explore today!

Sleep and Learning

Sleep is quite a complex phenomenon. We aren’t exactly sure how it works, though. But studies both in animals, and in humans show that quality and quantity of sleep affect memory and learning. It is supposed to work due to two factors. One of them Is the inability to focus when you are sleep-deprived. Because of this inability people cannot be optimally attentive and, so, they lack the capability to learn effectively. But also, it is thought to work via a process called memory consolidation.

Now, what is consolidation? Well, several terms are important when we talk about leaning. Acquisition means introducing something new in your brain. Consolidation is the process of stabilizing this memory. Then we have recall which is the process of accessing the information at a later moment.

Those steps have a great impact on the memory. Acquisition and recall can only occur when we are awake. Still, according to research we can imagine that consolidation occurs during sleep via strengthening the neural connections that are the basis of our memory.

Sure, there isn’t a consensus yet on the topic. But it is thought that the brainwaves of our brain during the sleep stages have effect on the formation of some kinds of memory.

Stages of Sleep; Kinds of Memory

The studies that were first done were focused on what is called declarative memory. This is the knowledge of various facts. Scientists proposed a hypothesis that said that probably REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep had association with acquisition the material that has been learned. Studies done afterwards pointed out that REM plays a part in declarative memory for complex or emotional charged information, but it did not seem so for neutral and simple information.

Nowadays scientists think that maybe slow-wave sleep, or the so-called SWS stage, has a significant role in this process. During SWS we sleep deeply, and this is the restorative stage of the sleep cycle. It is hypothesized that maybe it helps consolidate the newly learned information. This is still under research and shows mixed results.

Sleep and procedural memory also is a topic for research. Procedural is the memory that keeps data on how to do something. Its consolidation is tied to REM sleep.

At the same time, REM and SWS sleep affect visual learning, while motor learning looks like it depends on lighter sleep stages.

Without proper sleep, the brain doesnt work at full capacity.

Deprivation of Sleep and Its Impact on Learning

Scientists have also looked into how sleep deprivation affects the learning process and our memory.

Those who are sleep-deprived, often lack attention and focus.

This then leads to more difficulties with receiving and processing information.

When one isn’t rested well enough and hasn’t gotten enough sleep, their neurons cannot properly coordinate information. Thus, in such scenarios we lack the capability of accessing data we’ve learned before.

Also, events interpretation can suffer. We now cannot make proper decisions for we lack the ability to make plans and choose which behavior is correct.

More on Snoozing and Memories

It seems like the non-REM sleep stages are preparing our brains to learn effectively on the next day. 40% drop of the learning ability can occur in those who haven’t slept. All-nighters aren’t efficient for learning. Sleep-deprivation affects the hippocampus and exactly this part of the brain is responsible for creating new memories. What cant the brain do

When we sleep, the brain sorts out memories and chooses which ones it wants to keep and which ones not. During the sleep cycle some of the memories are strengthened. In this process REM plays a role. It links memories together. Sometimes it does so in unexpected manner. So, having a good night of sleep can work wonders for solving problems. REM also allows us to process highly emotional memories. This allows for reducing the intensity of those emotions.


Yes, we really do need our full 8 hours of sleep. And this is due to many reasons. Since listing them all would take a great deal of time and you’ll get bored reading it, we decided to pinpoint one of the most important aspects – sleep and its effects on learning.

As you can see, pulling all-nighters won’t seem to work. Thus, try to do your studies during the day and get a good night’s sleep. This is especially true if you have a test or an exam on the following day.

There are various stages of sleep and they, together, constitute the sleep cycle. We go through this cycle several times a night and allowing ourselves enough time to do that is vital for our health.

And you are probably trying to find good tips on how to study more efficiently. Well, there is one step you can take right away – sleep well! By allowing yourself to rest for enough period of time, you will be more capable of learning on the next day. You will find out that you are feeling more energetic, and you have better mood. Also, you shall see that memories seem to be stronger.

So, try to follow the guidelines of the health authorities. They are suggesting that adults should sleep 7-8 hours a night. Now go grab a pillow, turn off the lamp, and catch some Z’s.

Sleeping is incredibly important to everyday life, but it couldn’t be more important when you think about it in terms of studying and learning.

Alaska Sleep Clinic takes you and your family's health seriously.  Don't trust your sleep to anyone else. 

Improve Your Sleep.  Improve Your Life.

Insomnia Quiz

Laura Fields works as a writer and tries to help students all over the globe. She strives to give them useful information that will boost the learning process and will make them more efficient in studying. Laura loves researching and compiling valuable data that will aid students achieve their dreams.

Topics: school, brain, sleep quality

Subscribe to our Blog

Alaska Sleep Clinic's Blog

Our weekly updated blog aims to provide you with answers and information to all of your sleeping questions.

New Call-to-action
Got Sleep Troubles

Sleep Apnea ebook

New Call-to-action


Popular Articles

Posts by Topic

see all