When you learn something new, the best way to remember it may be to make sure you get a good night’s sleep. Sleep, which can influence your ability to focus and affect your eating habits, also helps strengthen the memories you have made throughout the day, according to recent research.
The trick is to start off your day well-rested so that your brain is ready to learn.
“We’ve learned that sleep before learning helps prepare your brain for initial formation of memories,” said Dr. Matthew Walker, a sleep scientist at the University of California, Berkeley. “And then, sleep after learning is essential to help save and cement that new information into the architecture of the brain, meaning that you’re less likely to forget it.”
In a recent study, Walker and his colleagues found that when people enter their late 30s, the stages of sleep that help strengthen memories begin to decline. In fact, when they compared adults over the age of 60 to adults under 25, they found that the older adults had a 70 percent loss of deep sleep. This made it harder for the older adults to remember things the next day.
“While we have limited medical treatments for memory impairment in aging, sleep actually is a potentially treatable target,” Walker said. “By restoring sleep, it might be possible to improve memory in older people.”
The National Institutes of Health recommends the following tips to help students and other learners:
- Get adequate sleep the night before learning. Most adults need seven to eight hours. Insufficient sleep can reduce your ability to learn by up to 40 percent.
- After learning something new, make sure to get a full night’s rest to strengthen new memories. Memories will not be strengthened if you sleep less than four hours.
Source: NIH News in Health, National Institutes of Health
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