Sleep and Memory

You’ve probably heard that sleep and memory are mutually interrelated. It is true. It’s been shown by many studies that not getting enough rest and quality sleep can definitely and outright directly impair one’s memory and mental faculties.

I’ve certainly noticed this from my own experience. Whenever I have a shabby night because of stress, back pain, allergies or other problems, my mind will almost always feel foggier the next morning.

At night, our brain reorganizes what we’ve learned during the day. Quote from a memory study in the 2006 November issue of science journal Nature: “There is compelling evidence that sleep contributes to the long-term consolidation of new memories.”

And according to another study, not getting enough hours will harm memorization ability as much as not getting any sleep at all! So to bolster our memory, it is absolutely vital to get enough quality shut-eye each and every night.

A poor night’s slumber harms your memory in two major ways:

  1. Being sleepy will cause your concentration to suffer. When you can’t focus clearly on your tasks, you won’t be able to remember things well.
  2. Not getting enough sleep means the things you learn today will not be fully recorded in the memory portions of your brain tomorrow.

According to sleep researcher Howard Nusbaum at the University of Chicago, a good night’s sleep not only helps memory retention but will also help you remember the thoughts forgotten earlier in the day. As he asserts in the magazine Psychology Today,

“Sleep might strengthen relevant associations and weaken irrelevant associations, improving access to memories.”

Get more sleep!

Sleep and Memory

Here are a few suggestions for getting more time to sleep. Sleep experts believe that the average person needs 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night to be fully rejuvenated.

See if you are able to get closer to that mark by trying out some of these tips.

  • Log the amount of hours you get for sleep. If your schedule fluctuates a lot, you probably may not know how many hours of sleep you are actually accumulating. In an ordinary journal or note book, each night when you hit the sack, look at the clock and write down the time you went to bed. And each morning when you wake up, write down the time you woke up. Then write down the total number of hours of sleep you got that night. (Subtract the relevant amount of time if you wake up for a midnight snack.) At the final end of the week, do the math and average the daily hours of sleep to see how much sleep you’re getting each average night. That’ll give you some indication as to how much sleep debt you really have and how sleep-deficient you really are.
  • Drop the late-night television habit. In my opinion, watching TV can be as strong an addiction as drugs for some people. They must see this or that show or else. But you’ve got to decide which is more important — watching all those episodes, or having your brain in tip-top condition for tomorrow.
  • Go easy on those late-night video games. Many young students these days also stay up too late playing their favorite video games, but you’ve got to be the ultimate arbiter as to how much is reasonable. Try not to overdo it or you’ll rack up the sleep debt the next day. If you must play games at night, at least be sure to make them low-key, non-competitive, relaxing games. (There are several of them available for free right on this site.)
  • Take naps whenever possible. Naps aren’t just for little kids. If you’re fortunate enough to have even twenty minutes of free time in the afternoon, consider taking a short catnap to supplement the sleep you may have been missing the previous night.
  • Cut back on unnecessary hobbies. This is up to each individual, but try to be realistic — if one of your hobbies is keeping you from sleeping early, find a few ways for cutting it back.