Smart While Sleeping - Can Sleep Improve Memory?
We learn while we sleep! Our brain is also highly active during sleep and ensures that information is stored, memory is consolidated and what has been learned is processed. You can find out here whether sleeping really makes you smart and can help you learn.
Table of Contents
- The brain in sleep
- Sleep & Memory
- Does a lot of sleep make you smart?
- Tips for studying while you sleep
1. The brain in sleep
Our brain really works around the clock and stays active even at night when we sleep. During sleep, it is constantly busy processing experiences, storing information and consolidating memory. A special property of the human brain is our ability to learn. The most 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. To put it more simply: Our brain structures can adapt very well to new tasks and information, store them for the long term and use them when needed. Our sleep plays a central role in these learning and memory processes.
2. Sleep and memory
Memory is very valuable for us humans - it helps us to learn, to understand, to remember and even to know who we are. During sleep, especially deep sleep, the memories that we have absorbed and learned during the day are consolidated. As a rule, all of the day's experiences are initially temporarily stored in what is known as the hippocampus. In the evening we can therefore remember the many details of the day very well. If these memories are not consolidated, which means stored more deeply, they fall apart and are forgotten. They only become permanent memories when they are transferred to our long-term memory, which is mainly located in the cerebral cortex. And it is precisely this transmission from the hippocampus to the cerebral cortex that takes place during deep sleep.
It is interesting that the content learned can change qualitatively during transmission, as if it were going through a kind of filter. Usually only the essentials remain, for example memories with emotional significance or new rules and structures. However, it is not yet known exactly which criteria our brain uses to evaluate information. However, studies show that content can be processed and stored more intensively when we know that it will be needed again or accessed - for example, when we are preparing for an exam.
3. Does a lot of sleep make you smart?
Consolidation occurs mainly in the early stages of deep sleep at the beginning of the night. In order to optimally use one's own learning ability and memory capacity, it is therefore important to sleep sufficiently long and uninterruptedly, because lack of sleep and frequent sleep interruptions reduce the deep sleep portion of our sleep and thus also influence memory formation. With a healthy sleep, the natural sleep structure can be maintained and the brain can work undisturbed. Especially in stressful learning phases, it is therefore of great importance to sleep as undisturbed as possible and for a sufficiently long time in order not to reduce one's own performance on the day when one studies the night before the exam and does not find any rest.
Important: We can't do more than sleep well. On the contrary, because too much sleep can also have negative effects and even reduce your own performance. You can find out more about this in this article.
4. Tips for learning while you sleep
Lack of sleep and frequent interruptions to sleep reduce the deep sleep portion of our sleep and thus also affect memory formation at night. So that you support your learning success and wake up rested and maybe even a little wiser in the morning, you should always make sure that you sleep as undisturbed as possible and for a sufficiently long time.
#1 repetitions in the evening
The learning success through consolidation seems to be particularly strong if what is to be learned is consciously brought to mind again in the evening before going to sleep. Especially on the evening before an important exam, it is therefore advisable to repeat the most important content again and then sleep well instead of studying all night and showing up tired for the exam.
#2 Physical activity on day
Various studies show that physical activity (v. a 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 functioning of nerve cells and memory processes. Regular exercise also has a positive effect on sleep and thus contributes to optimal conditions for information processing at night.
#3 Balanced diet rich in vitamins and proteins
When new neural connections form to further shape our memory, energy and building blocks are needed at the molecular level. Therefore, especially in the evening, make sure you eat a healthy and balanced diet and provide your body with sufficient amino acids (proteins), vitamins and minerals to supply. These have a beneficial effect on numerous physiological and anabolic processes and can help to support regeneration and learning during sleep.
So that falling asleep is not made more difficult and, at best, not interrupted, you should also avoid stimulating substances such as alcohol, caffeine or nicotine some time before going to bed.
#4 Avoid sleeping pills
Sleeping pills disturb our sleep in an unnatural way, can be addictive and suppress the naturally occurring delta brainwaves, which are instrumental in the transmission and storage of memories, during deep sleep. However, there are many herbal extracts and supplements that can gently help to reduce stress, support relaxation in the evening and promote sleep in its natural function. Then nothing stands in the way of a quiet night and your brain can devote itself to its important task in peace.
The brain is also active during sleep to store information, process experiences and form memory.
The important learning and memory processes take place particularly during deep sleep at the beginning of the night, which is why we should sleep long enough.
Repetitive learning in the evening, physical exertion during the day, a diet rich in protein and vitamins and avoiding stimulants and sleeping pills can effectively support sleep and learning and memory performance.
Greetings and see you soon!