It’s happened to all of us at one time or another. Without warning, a forgotten project or midterm has crept up out of nowhere and, suddenly, you are left scrambling to meet the deadline. In college, when balancing friends, school, and work, there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to do it all. So what do we do? Stay up all night; head to Starbucks for coffee, and return to class again for round two. It may often seem necessary to pull an all-nighter in order to pull through on that last minute test or assignment. But did you know that a night spent cramming could actually keep you from getting the A?
A recent series of studies performed at Harvard Medical School and Trent University of Canada found that the brain uses sleep to practice and solidify what it has processed during the day. Eight hours of recommended sleep does not only recharge the body; it can also help us to remember subjects taught in class.
How it Works
While you are sleeping, the brain is hard at work in a process called memory consolidation. Memory consolidation occurs during REM sleep, the deepest level of sleep at which the brain experiences most activity (this is also the sleep stage in which we experience dreams). During this period, the brain is strengthening connections that take information learned during the day and encode it as a memory one can reaccess later, reinforcing that last chemistry equation or additional historic date.
In addition to helping us retain information, the amount of sleep we get can also play a significant role in how much we learn the following day.
Dr. Robert Sickgold, professor of psychiatry at Harvard University, stresses that if we do not get enough sleep the night before; our brains will be too tired to take in information. “Some of this has to do with an inability to pay attention,” he states, “there seems to be something in the memory circuits in the brain that gets fatigued so that you don’t learn as well.”
While in class, students who are sleep deprived will be less focused, losing their ability to take in important details and be unable to receive information fully.
How many hours of sleep should one get each night?
According to Dr. William Dement, an expert on sleep deprivation, the average college student should be getting over eight hours of sleep a night. When this number is not met, a “sleep debt” will build up and the amount of sleep hours lost will begin to affect our abilities. The only solution to reducing this is by getting additional hours of sleep to recharge our bodies.
Try Setting a Bedtime
Yes, you may have not had one since middle school, but setting a bedtime is an effective way to ensure enough sleep. Try setting a goal time each night in which you will be in your room and winding down. Remember: getting yourself to bed earlier will help to retain what you have learned the day before. So go to bed! You will wake up the next day ready to focus and well prepared for the school day ahead.
By: Nicole Battafarano | Image: Weheartit