Healthy sleep plays a significant role in memory function. It promotes an optimal learning. Memory, sleep, and learning are phenomena that are closely related. Many people have not entirely understood their relationship. Several studies have proved that the quantity and quality of sleep influences memory and learning. The quality and quantity of sleep play a critical role in the memory and learning in two different ways. Firstly, a person who is deprived of sleep cannot focus his or her attention on studies thus hindering the learning process. Secondly, sleep plays a significant role in memory consolidation. Memory consolidation plays a major role in learning or acquiring new information. Learning and memory perform three essential functions. They help in information acquisition, consolidation, and recall. Acquisition refers to the process where the brain acquires new information. Consolidation refers to the ability of the memory to stay in a stable condition and reflect on the information obtained. On the other hand, recall relates to the ability of the brain to access the stored information. Acquisition, consolidation, and recall are three essential steps that promote efficient memory function. Acquisition and recall take place when an individual is awake. On the other hand, memory consolidation occurs during sleep. It helps to strengthen neural connections. The neural connections play a significant role in the formation of memory. Sleep triggers specific brain waves at different stages to help in the formation of various kinds of memory that consolidates information.
Role of Sleep in Memory and Learning
Sleep plays a major role in memory formation and learning in two different ways. The first stage describes the role of sleep and its contribution to the learning process. This approach outlines how sleep helps an individual to learn new tasks. The second category examines the quality of sleep and learning. This approach examines the ability to learn from a person deprived of sleep. It examines how different stages of sleep such as total, partial and selective sleep affect the learning process.
The Stages of Sleep and Memory Types
Various types of learning situations expose different individual types of memories. A lot of research has been carried out concerning the relationship between sleep stages and the types of memories associated with them. The first study focused on the relationship between declarative memory and rapid eye movement sleep. Declarative memory is based on information or facts. It relies on ‘what we know’ as the factual and valid information. Rapid eye movement sleep is associated with individuals who frequently dream during sleep. This type of sleep plays a critical role in the acquisition of new knowledge or learning new material. In cases where the information under study is complex, rapid eye movement sleep is used in the declarative memory. In this case, it is used to process the complex information to provide factual data that can be relied upon. Besides, it is involved where the information is emotionally charged. Declarative memory is also associated with slow wave sleep. Slow wave sleep is also known as profound and restorative sleep. It helps the declarative memory to consolidate and process new information.
Research has also been carried out concerning the relationship between sleep and the role it plays in procedural memory. Procedural memory allows one to remember certain processes and procedures used in doing something. For instance, procedural memory is used in riding a bicycle, playing the guitar, and driving a car among others. Rapid eye movement sleep also plays a critical role in procedural memory. It is used to consolidate the process of doing something. Other types of sleep also play a significant role in visual and motor learning. Motor learning depends on light sleep while visual learning relies heavily on deep sleep, rapid eye movement sleep and slow wave sleep. These aspects of sleep enable an individual to consolidate newly acquired information.
How Sleep Deprivation Affects Performance and Learning
Inadequate sleep affects the learning and performance of an individual. People who are deprived of sleep lose focus and attention during learning. In this case, they find it difficult to consolidate and retain the newly acquired information. Inadequate sleep affects the functions of the neurons. The neurons become overworked. In this case, they fail to coordinate information. If the neurons fail to coordinate information, then it becomes difficult to remember previously learned knowledge or information. Furthermore, the ability to interpret events is affected if neurons are overburdened. We find it difficult to arrive at sound decisions because the memory cannot access the current situation accordingly. Our judgment is impaired because we cannot settle on the appropriate behavior. Inadequate sleep leads to fatigue and exhaustion. Fatigue or exhaustion affects the optimal function of the neurons. The muscles and the body become exhausted, and this can lead to injuries or accidents.
Sleep deprivation impacts the mood negatively. If moods are affected, individuals find it difficult to learn efficiently. We no longer acquire new information quickly. Besides, it becomes difficult to access or remember previously obtained information. Sleep deprivation affects people in different ways. However, it is important to have a good night rest to enhance performance and learning process.
Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Cognitive Performance
Several factors result into prolonged wakefulness. Prolonged wakefulness can result from chronic partial sleep restriction or acute total sleep deprivation. Today, several people are affected by chronic partial sleep deprivation. Both acute total and chronic partial sleep deprivation have significant effects on individual performance. Acute total sleep deprivation impairs a person’s attention and functioning of the memory. It affects decision-making processes. Chronic partial sleep restriction affects a person’s vigilance. It impairs the cognitive ability of an individual. Chronic partial sleep restriction and acute total sleep deprivation are caused by increased working hours where people find it difficult to have time to rest or engage in active leisure. There are certain professions where people are required to work at night. Such professions include health care, transportation, and security among others. Individuals who work at night experiences sleep restriction. Both acute and chronic sleep deprivation has adverse effects on performance. They impair the cognitive ability of individuals, thus affecting their cognitive performance.
Sleep and Factors that Lead to Sleep Loss
The duration of sleep varies significantly between different individuals. The appropriate sleep length should range between 7 to 8 hours a day. Two processes regulate sleep. These processes include circadian process and homeostasis. Homeostasis process relies on wakefulness and sleep. The need or urge to sleep increases as an individual continues to stay awake. The circadian process regulates the circadian pacemaker that influences the onset and offset of the sleep process. These two processes determine the duration upon which an individual stays awake and asleep. They are used to describe vigilance and alertness of an individual. Sleep plays a critical role in body restitution, thermoregulation, and energy conservation. Furthermore, sleep boost memory consolidation which is enhanced by cognitive performance. Sleep loss activates the sympathetic nerves causing the blood pressure to increase. It also promotes secretion of cortisol. In addition, the immune system is impaired thus causing changes in the metabolic processes. For instance, insulin and glucagon may fail to perform their functions thus affecting the blood sugar level. People who are deprived of sleep experienced a decline in their cognitive performance. Besides, they experience changes in their moods.
Cognitive Functions Affected by Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation impairs the performance of visuomotor. The level of performance of visuomotor is measured by maze tracing, letter cancellation, and symbol substitution. Sleep loss affects the performance of visual tasks because the iconic memory has a limited capacity. Sleepiness decreases the functioning of the oculomotor which impairs visual performance as a result of rapid eye movement.
Chronic partial sleep restriction affects an individual’s ability to make sound decision and judgment. The coordination of different neurons in the brain is affected. In this case, an individual cannot act or depend on his decisions. He or she can be influenced by other people’s judgment thus affecting cognitive performance. Chronic partial sleep restriction also affects other cognitive domains and processes. It enhances the process of rigid thinking and error retention. In this case, an individual finds it difficult to use the new information in solving complex tasks that require critical thinking. Chronic partial sleep restriction also affects expressive speech, motor function, receptive ability and retention of information in the memory. However, chronic partial sleep restriction does not affect an individual’s ability to read and write. The intellectual process and tactile function remain contact.
There is a correlation between short sleep and poor learning. Short sleep affects concentration, and an individual may find it hard to acquire and retain new knowledge. To promote positive learning, an individual should have a quality sleep. The sleep should last between 6 to 8 hours a day. The quality sleep is also known as free running sleep. It promotes cognitive performance and learning since an individual can easily identify and recall a new material. In this case, the information gained can be retained for long. Besides, the person can recall the information that learned previously.
How to Overcome Sleep Disorders
As the day progresses the ability to recall and retain information reduces. Therefore, it is important to work moderately during the day. We should engage ourselves for a maximum of eight hours a day. We should learn to exercise regularly. This helps in breaking excess fats in the body. Vigorous exercise also helps the body to get rid of excess lactic acid. If our body gets rid of excess acid and fats, the level of vigilance and alertness increases. As such, we can learn quickly, and access or recall information learned previously. Adequate sleep reduces stress thus promoting health. Therefore, it is important to have an adequate sleep since it makes us become active during the day and retain the information learned. Quality sleep promotes cognitive performance and learning process.