Clever in sleep - how sleep shapes our memory

Sleep is vital for us. But not only muscles and skin regenerate during sleep, our memory is also strengthened and experiences are processed. Why sleep makes us smart and how you can optimally arrange your memory sleep, you can find out here.

Table of contents

      1. The ability to learn
      2. Sleep & Memory
      3. Top 3 - What disturbs learning in sleep?
      4. Top 3 - What promotes learning in sleep?
      5. Conclusion

      The ability to learn

      Our brain never rests, but continuously processes information from the outer and inner world. One of the most fascinating features of our brain is its ability to learn. An important basis for this is the so-called plasticity of the brain, i.e. the ability of nerve cells and entire brain areas to change their properties depending on their use and activation. Our sleep plays a central role in this function.

      Sleep & Memory

      In short: In sleep, especially in deep sleep, the memory contents that we have absorbed and learned during the day are consolidated. As a rule, all experiences of the day are first stored temporarily in the so-called hippocampus. In the evening we can therefore remember the many details of the day very well. If these memories are not consolidated, i.e. stored in a deeper way, they disintegrate again and are forgotten. Only by transferring them into our long-term memory, which is mainly located in the cerebral cortex, do they become permanent memories. And exactly this transfer from the hippocampus to the cerebral cortex takes place in deep sleep.

      It is interesting to note that the content learned changes qualitatively during transmission, as if it were passing through a kind of filter. In most cases, only the essential remains, for example memories with emotional meaning or new rules and structures.

      Top 3 - What disturbs learning in sleep?

      Everything that disturbs deep sleep can also have a negative effect on memory consolidation.

      #1 alcohol in the evening

      Alcohol, especially in larger quantities, can have a negative influence on the quality of sleep. This is largely due to the degradation products that are produced after consumption. Alcohol therefore has a negative effect on sleep and thus also on memory consolidation.

      #2 sleeping pills

      Many sleeping pills disturb our sleep in an unnatural way and can suppress the naturally occurring delta waves, which are significantly involved in the transmission and storage of memories, in deep sleep. According to this, sleeping pills should rather be avoided, if not prescribed by a doctor.

      #3 Little sleep

      In the meantime, many studies have proven that lack of sleep can have a negative influence on learning and memory processes. Especially in deep sleep, which is disturbed by acute and permanent sleep deprivation, the important transmission and processing processes take place.

      Top 3 - What promotes learning in sleep?

      #1 repetition in the evening

      The learning success through consolidation is particularly strong if what is to be learned is consciously brought to mind again in the evening before sleeping.

      #2 Physical activity

      Physical activity (especially moderate endurance training) has a positive effect on brain functions and structures. During activity, the production of growth hormones is stimulated (HGH, BDNF), which are important for the function of nerve cells and memory processes. Regular physical activity also has a positive effect on sleep and thus contributes to optimal conditions for information processing during the night. You can find out more about the effects of sport on sleep here.

      #3 Vitamin and protein rich diet

      When new nerve connections are formed to further shape our memory, energy and building blocks are needed at the molecular level. Necessary building blocks are mainly amino acids (proteins). Vitamins and minerals also have a beneficial effect on numerous physiological and anabolic effects in this process. A protein and vitamin-rich diet can therefore be helpful for the learning process, especially in the evening.


      • The brain's ability to learn is based on its ability to change nerve cells and brain areas depending on their use and activation.
      • Particularly in deep sleep, memory content is processed, filtered and transferred to the long-term memory. This process is called consolidation.
      • Alcohol consumption (especially in the evening), taking sleeping pills and lack of sleep disturb deep sleep and have a negative effect on consolidation and learning processes.
      • Promoting learning in sleep is the repetition of the learning contents before going to bed, physical activity and a diet rich in vitamins and proteins.

      Best regards and see you soon!

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