According to Harvard Medical School, sleep plays a vital role in optimal learning and memory function. Research suggests that sleep helps learning and memory in two distinct ways. First, a sleep-deprived person cannot focus attention optimally and therefore cannot learn efficiently. Second, sleep itself has a role in the consolidation of memory, which is essential for learning new information.
Learning and memory are often described in terms of three functions: Acquisition, Consolidation, and Recall.
Acquisition refers to the introduction of new information into the brain. Consolidation represents the processes by which a memory becomes stable, while Recall refers to the ability to access the information (whether consciously or unconsciously) after it has been stored. Acquisition and Recall occur only during wakefulness, but research suggests that memory consolidation takes place during sleep through the strengthening of the neural connections that form our memories.
Different types of memories are formed in new learning situations. Researchers are exploring whether there is a relationship between the consolidation of different types of memories and the various stages of sleep. Slow-wave sleep (SWS), which is deep, restorative sleep, is found to play a significant role in declarative memory by processing and consolidating newly acquired information. REM sleep, a stage of sleep in which dreaming occurs most frequently, seems to be involved in declarative memory processes if the information is complex and emotionally charged. However, probably not if the information is simple and emotionally neutral.
Low-quality sleep and sleep deprivation negatively impact mood, which has consequences for learning. Alterations in mood affect our ability to acquire new information and subsequently to remember that information. Chronic sleep deprivation affects different individuals in a variety of ways, and the effects are not entirely known.
I personally experienced this while studying for the bar during which I noticed that during the initial stages of sleep my mind was able to vividly recall, recite, and process information that I couldn't have recalled earlier. I implemented a strict sleep regiment into my study plan, and made sure to always decompress and step away from the computer every day.
It's like going from moving mode and grabbing everything in sight and jamming it into a box to storage and organizing mode where we're thoughtfully placing things in appropriate places and making sure we know where we'll be able to find it.
Hopefully society is able to take it further and we even incorporate mandatory breaks and stopping periods to give our minds and bodies a complete rest away from work. It's medically proven and corporations may actually benefit from it, becuase it's not like we're getting much done pretending to work and scrolling through our phones.
In sports we have rest days, or light days to give our bodies a rest and understand the necessity of giving our muscles time to recharge, this should naturally extend to the most important organ in our bodies as well. Burnout is real, and productivity is limited when we're lacking focus or unable to retain information.
It is essential to get enough rest and intentionally recharge to avoid burnout. Sleeping is actually great for memory and processing information. Healthy sleep is necessary for optimal learning and memory function. As a society we're too advanced to have to pretend to be working or thinking that we're being productive as long as we're in front of the computer.