Sleeping well can help each of these aspects of memory and can make a real difference in your ability to take in new information—essentially, to learn. If you’ve ever tried to study for a test or complete a work project while short on sleep, you’ve experienced the obstacles that sleep deprivation can have on memory acquisition. Even a very short period of sleep deprivation can diminish your capacity to form new memories in everyday learning.
Sleep is also important to your ability to recall short- and long-term memories you’ve already made. Research indicates that a sleep-deprived brain is less effective at memory retrieval, while staying well rested can help protect and improve this “remembering” phase of memory.
While both memory acquisition and memory recall are influenced by sleep, it is the middle phase of the memory process—consolidation—that actually occurs during sleep itself. This not only secures memory for future retrieval, but also appears to free up the learning centers of the brain in preparation to take in new batches of information in the next waking day.
That’s the theory… and here is a practical guide to help you sleep both more and better:
1. Establish a sleep routine. A consistent bedtime—one that allows for 7-8 hours of nightly rest—is the foundation of a strong sleep routine, and can help you avoid the sleep deprivation that interferes with memory and other cognitive functions.
2. Be mindful about consumption. Avoiding stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol within several hours of bedtime can help improve sleep quantity and quality. Not only can these substances make it more difficult to sleep, they can disrupt normal sleep cycles, and may alter time spent in the stages of sleep that are most important to memory consolidation. Eating heavily in the evenings, and eating late at night, can also disturb sleep quality and lead to restless, interrupted sleep.
3. Ease your stress. Managing daily stress is also critical for healthy, high-quality sleep. Worry and anxiety are among the most common sources of poor and insufficient rest, leaving you with a tired body and tired mind at the beginning of the next day. When you’re tempted to stay up late for the sake of being productive, bear in mind that you and your memory ultimately will be better served by getting a good night’s sleep. Well rested, you’re more likely to feel better, perform better, and to remember more.
Renowned clinical psychologist Dr. Breus is a member of the Six Senses Integrated Wellness Board, which has created a pioneering Sleep With Six Senses program that adds a new dimension to your stay. Why not ask about arranging a personal consultation with a Sleep Ambassador to start the ball rolling?
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