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Why did your high school teacher always preach that a good night’s sleep was paramount to staying up late and cramming for a test?
Because we form memories during the hours we spend sleeping, allowing the things we’ve seen and learned to sink into our consciousness.
And just like a lack of sleep can promote health problems such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity, it can also have adverse affects on your memory, namely the ability to absorb crucial information.
Suddenly your mediocre sophomore chemistry midterm is making perfect sense, right? You pulled that all-nighter memorizing the Periodic Table only to draw a blank come test time. What seemed like an easily recallable fact at 2 a.m. had disappeared by 9 a.m., and it was all because you skipped the all-important step that would have solidified what you’d studied: Sleep.
So how, exactly, does this work?
Humans make memories in a series of three interelated steps:
Processing what we see, learn or are taught
Stabilizing said information and experiences in our brain
Accessing what we learned in the future
However, research shows that there is one distinct difference between these three functions. While Encoding and Recalling both take place during waking hours, Consolidation — the vital step that ties our whole memory-making process together — happens when we are sleeping.
The jury is still out as to how, exactly, sleep creates the necessary environment for our brain to absorb what we’ve learned, but scientists believe it involves the interplay between the brain’s hippocampus and neocortex, both areas that store long-term memories. According to research, the hippocampus replays that we’ve seen and learned to the neocortex while we sleep, allowing the latter to process everything as memories.
Whatever the science, it's clear that a good night’s sleep is crucial to our ability to form memories, allowing us to be sharp the following day, from work meetings to coaching our kids’ soccer team to reminiscing with the family.
Maximize your rest by getting a great deal on a new mattress from Mancini’s Sleepworld, where their SleepMatch system will guide you to a selection of mattresses just right for you. To learn more, visit Mancini's Sleepworld or call (800) 647-5337.