Neuroscience is slowly revealing what a crucial part sleep plays in learning and the formation of long-term memories. Different stages of sleep have been shown to consolidate different types of memories.
Declarative memory, (the type that helps us retain facts, figures etc) is enhanced when we’re in deep, slow-wave sleep. Procedural memory, on the other hand, (what might be called ‘muscle memory‘ gets a boost when we’re in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.
This entertaining short video from Ted-Ed explains why staying up all night to swot for an exam in the morning is probably the worst thing you could do, in terms of being any good at remembering anything!
It’s 4am, and the big test is in 8 hours. You’ve been studying for days, but you still don’t feel ready. Should you drink another cup of coffee and spend the next few hours cramming? Or should you go to sleep? Shai Marcu defends the latter option, showing how sleep restructures your brain in a way that’s crucial for how our memory works.