Poor Sleep – Effects Your Ability To Learn

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Research manipulates the deep sleep phase and examines its effects on learning new skills.

Early To Bed, Early To Rise Keeps You Healthy and Wise!

All of you would agree, a good night’s sleep is key for happiness and increased productivity, and that conversely, a night of poor sleep can have negative effects on your health and performance during the day. Many research studies conducted believe that the duration and quality of sleep have a deep impact on Learning and Memory.

Learning & Memory are defined in 3 stages -:

  • Acquisition is the initial process that refers to the registering of new information into the brain.
  • Consolidation represents the processes by which a information becomes a memory.
  • Recall is the process that refers to the ability to access the information (whether consciously or unconsciously) after it has been stored.

For proper memory function, all these are necessary. Both, Acquisition and Recall only occurs when you are awake, but according to research and study memory consolidation takes place even during sleep through the strengthening of the neural connections that form memories.

For many years, researchers have studied the role of sleep in learning and memory formation in two ways. The First approach looks at the different stages of sleep (and changes in their duration) in response to learning a variety of new tasks. The Second approach examines how sleep deprivation affects learning.

Sleep Stages and Types of Memory

Rapid Eye Movement (or REM Sleep) is the stage of sleep in which dreaming occurs most frequently. Scientists believe that, REM sleep plays an essential role in the acquisition of learned material.

To analyze the relationship between sleep and memory, the research focused on Declarative Memory – which is the knowledge of fact-based information, or “what” we know (for example, the capital of India, The 7 wonders of the world, or what you had for dinner last night) and, Procedural Memory—the remembering “how” to do something (for example, riding a bicycle or playing the piano).

Studies have suggested that REM sleep seems to be involved in declarative memory processes, especially if the information is complex and emotionally charged. REM sleep also plays a critical role in the consolidation of procedural memory. Other aspects of sleep also play a role: Motor Learning seems to depend on the amount of lighter stages of sleep, while certain types of visual learning seem to depend on the amount and timing of both deep, slow-wave sleep (SWS) and REM sleep.

The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Learning and Performance

Cover Picture - Sleep Deprived








When we are sleep deprived, our focus, attention, and vigilance drift, making it more difficult to receive and register information. Without adequate sleep and rest, over-worked neurons can no longer function to coordinate information properly, and we lose our ability to access previously learned information. Neurons do not fire optimally, muscles are not rested, and the body’s organ systems are not synchronized. Lapses in focus from sleep deprivation can even result in accidents or injury.

In addition, our interpretation of events may be affected. We lose our ability to make sound decisions because we can no longer accurately assess the situation, plan accordingly, and choose the correct behavior. Judgment becomes impaired.

Low-quality sleep and sleep deprivation also negatively impact mood, which has consequences for learning. Alterations in mood affect our ability to acquire new information and subsequently to remember that information. Although chronic sleep deprivation affects different individuals in a variety of ways (and the effects are not entirely known), it is clear that a good night’s rest has a strong impact on learning and memory.

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