Sleep is often one of the first things to go when people feel pressed for time. Many view sleep as a luxury and think that the benefits of limiting the hours they spend asleep outweigh the costs. People often overlook the likely long-term health consequences of insufficient sleep, and the impact that health problems can eventually have on one's time and productivity.
While sleeping well is no guarantee of good health, it does help to maintain many important functions. One of the most significant of these functions may be to provide cells and tissues with the chance to recover from the wear and tear of daily life. Major healing functions in the body such as tissue repair, muscle growth, and protein synthesis occur almost exclusively during sleep.
Sleep experts say there is ample evidence that shows that when people get the sleep they need, they will not only feel better, but will also increase their odds of living healthier, more productive lives.
There are 3 distinct brain processes involving memory which include acquisition, consolidation, and recall.
- Acquisition is the process by which the brain receives information and stores this information within its circuits as a memory be it a list of facts or the proper technique for shooting a free-throw.
- Consolidation is a process during which connections in the brain are strengthened, extended, and in some cases even weakened, so that a memory ends up in a more stable and useful form. It can extend over minutes, hours, or even days.
- Recall is the last important step in memory, in which the brain accesses and utilizes stored information, often bringing memories back to mind.
How sleep affects your memory?
Insufficient sleep negatively affects all three memory processes.
Acquisition and recall suffer in the most identifiable way. It is more difficult to concentrate when we are sleep deprived; this affects our ability to focus on and collect information presented to us, and our ability to remember even those things we know we have learned in the past.
The less clear impact of sleep deprivation on learning is the effect that many sleep researchers think it has on memory consolidation.
Although no one knows exactly how sleep enables memory consolidation, a number of studies have shown that a reduction in total sleep time or specific sleep stages can dramatically inhibit a person's ability to consolidate recently formed memories. Poor sleep appears to affect the brain's ability to consolidate both factual information—such as what you had for breakfast or that London is the capital of England—and procedural memories about how to do various physical tasks—such as riding a bike or playing the guitar.
Research suggests that the most critical period of sleep for memory consolidation is the one immediately following a lesson. If this opportunity is lost—such as when a student pulls an "all-nighter especially during exams"—it generally can’t be made up. Even if sleep is "recovered" on following nights, the brain will be less able to remember and make use of information gathered on the day before the all-nighter.
After learning how sleep affects your memory the next obvious question that comes to mind is how to ensure a good and restful sleep. For this, we suggest that you address any bad habits that prevent you from getting a good sleep, read more in our blog ‘5 bad habits that prevent you from that restful sleep’. And if you think that you have already tried those tricks without any luck, read our blog on ‘How to beat Insomnia the natural way?’
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- Walker MP, et al. Sleep-dependent Motor Memory Plasticity in the Human Brain. Neuroscience. 2005; 133(4): 911-7.
- Stickgold R, Walker MP. Memory Consolidation and Reconsolidation: What is the Role of Sleep? Trends Neurosci. 2005 Aug; 28(8): 408-15.
- Ellenbogen JM, et al. The Role of Sleep in Declarative Memory Consolidation: Passive, Permissive, Active or None? Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2006 Dec; 16(6): 716-22.
- Walker MP, Stickgold R. Sleep-dependent Learning and Memory Consolidation. Neuron. 2004 Sep 30; 44(1): 121-33.