TED Ed: The Link Between Sleep and Memory
It’s old advice: “Get a good night’s sleep before you take a big test.” But now, due to recent brain research, we know why there’s a relationship between sleep and memory.
As a great five-minute video from TED Education makes clear, a whole lot is going on in your brain while you sleep. It’s balancing and regulating such vital systems as respiration, circulation, and immunity. But it’s also “consolidating” memories.
The Brain’s Hippocampus is Key to Sleep and Memory
Several areas of the brain are involved in longer-term memory formation, with the hippocampus as the most important.
Researchers have identified four stages of sleep, and the two deepest are “slow wave” and “REM” sleep. When test subjects are hooked up to an EEG (Electroencephalogram), it shows intense brain activity during deep sleep between the hippocampus and the other memory zones, forming new connections while you sleep.
The research shows that sleep helps you consolidate memory. It also indicates that going to sleep three hours after memorizing for a test is ideal timing. Then, of course, you need to get enough deep sleep to help cement those memories in your mind.
As usual, there’s a lot more to explore in the Dig Deeper section. For example: a link to the National Sleep Foundation which has tons of good information in addition to Learning Liftoff’s own article about the importance of students getting enough sleep.
So remember to study, but sleep to remember!
Michael Solow has worked as a teacher, journalist, and commercial writer/creative director. Michael has also taught high school English and junior high math, gaining his teaching certification from Vassar College and a master's degree in the teaching of writing and literature from George Mason University. His writing has been published in the New York Times, the San Francisco Review of Books, TheMorningNews.org, and the Hemingway Review. He is the proud dad of two grown daughters and the happy husband of an elementary school librarian.