Topic C: Sleep
Pulling an all-nighter has become the status quo for my students around the world. We forego sleep in hopes that finishing a project or cramming for an exam the next day. We often underrate the importance of sleep in our role in learning. This may be because sleep does not appear as active, but in reality a lot happens if you get a good night’s rest.
Sleep puts our brains into “diffuse mode”, which is when the brain consolidates what we have learned throughout the day and makes connections and even new neural pathways. When we wake up, we unconsciously have new perspectives about the material and when we revisit the material, we can approach it with a new mindset.
Sleeping has also been shown to help with learning declarative memory (factual information) and procedural memory (doing things), especially during REM (rapid eye movement). In fact, if you learn right before sleeping, you may even get to dream about the material, which helps solidify what you have learned. Without sleep, we are also less likely to focus during the day and lose memory of the things we learned the day before. It makes us more stressed out, making us unlikely to learn even more material.
During sleep, our brain cells also shrink, which increases the space between cells. This allows more the cerebrospinal fluid to flow more readily and wash out toxins that accumulated in the brain during the day. Less toxins means a more efficient brain.
So what is the takeaway? Minimize procrastination so you have time to sleep. It is worth it and your brain will thank you.
John Hamilton. (October 17, 2013). “Brains Sweep Themselves Clean of Toxins During Sleep.”
“Sleep, Learning, and Memory” at http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep/learning-memory
Cromie, William J. “Research Links Dreams, Sleep, and Learning.”