Wouldn’t it be great if you could take the effort out of learning? Well, if you’re the parent of a school or college-age child or someone who needs to learn coursework as part of job training there is interesting news for you. New research indicates that learning before you go to sleep could really improve your recall for your subject. Here’s how it goes…
Sleep and memory.
Scientists know that sleep has an important role in processing, consolidating and restructuring our memories from the day. And if you’ve ever been stuck with a problem and ‘slept on it’ only to find the answer in the morning, that’s exactly what’s happened. However ‘sleep memory’ is thought to be an unconscious and perhaps a separate form of memory, new and as yet undefined from the traditional information we have about memory.
Kimberly Fenn is a researcher at Michigan State University and she and her colleagues have been testing the theory.
What the researchers did.
Their 250+ volunteers were shown a list of paired words before bedtime and were then tested to see which word was the second half of the pair. In the morning they were again asked to complete the pairings of the lists words from memory.
What they found.
The findings from the research were not the actual scores on each evening/morning test, but the improvement between them. For example if you scored 18 out of 40 before bed and 25 out of 40 in the morning, this shows a 7-point improvement.
They also did the same tests using a waking interval between the tests rather than sleeping and there was little difference between the 2 tests. This proves that sleep plays a vital part in how effectively we learn.
You can take the test and learn even more about the experiment here: http://psychology.msu.edu/SleepLab/MemoryTest.aspx
Perhaps unsurprisingly, some people did much better than others. Why should this be? Luck? The unfairness of life? Random chance? Actually no.
How can you make use of this?
The people who did better at remembering what they learned after they woke up seem to have had a better quality of sleep.
So the answer seems to be that it’s vital to make sure that you or your child gets the best quality sleep when you’re learning. As Kimberly Fenn says: ‘Simply improving your sleep could potentially improve your performance in the classroom’
This site is dedicated to helping you get better sleep so have a look at articles her to improve your quality of life: