A great deal of experts have pointed to the fact that actually our sleep and learning abilities are quite closely linked with each other. Do you remember your college times and how sleepy you could feel by the end of certain lectures? One could think that such things happen only when the lesson is too boring or too long. However, falling asleep right after getting certain information means nothing but perfectly absorbing and learning this kind of new information very well. That is why experts recommend studying and learning something right before going to sleep. Exam preparation, learning something by heart, studying for tomorrow’s lesson or preparing for tomorrow’s office presentation – those are the activities should be done right before the bedtime, in order to maximize the effectiveness of learning process.
A group of scientists from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, attempted to study the links between our sleep and learning. The experiment involved 208 students who studied in various educational establishments and always had 6 hours of sleep at night. The core of the experiment was showing the participants pairs of words (sometimes related to each other and sometimes totally different ones) and asking to remember as many of the words as possible. The tests were taking place before and after sleep, after rest and after breaks of various length. It is reported that recalling the pairs of words was slightly better after a 12-hour break between the tests. The longest break between the tests was as much as 24 hours.
At the same time, after the experiments with word memorizing tests before and after going to sleep on the second stage of the study, it became apparent that memorizing words right before going to bed can be much more successful, regardless of how long break was taken before and after the test. The benefits of sleeping after receiving new information are very long term, the scientists suggest. Also, as the experiment has shown, memorizing the words before the bedtime can be effective both for the pairs or related and the pairs of not related words. Thus, this study has proven that our sleep and learning are closely related and we can use these links for our benefits when studying or learning something new.
‘Our study confirms that sleeping directly after learning something new is beneficial for memory.’ commented Jessica Payne, one of the study leaders and a psychologist from the University of Notre Dame. She said that especially effective can be repeating the information that we need to keep in mind right before going to sleep. Exam study materials, oral presentation or speech, poems or other information that is necessary to keep in mind can be remembered in the most effective way after a series of pre-bedtime repetitions, she said. Payne describes this technique as ‘telling our brain the things to remember’. You can read more about this interesting study and its findings in one of the latest issues of the specialist journal PLOS One.