When It’s Learn or Lose, Sleep On It

sleepSLEEP 2009, the ultimate sleep research event, wrapped up this week with a slew of intriguing studies about the benefits of bedtime. The one that has my eyes perked is about sleep’s role in memory formation.

Researchers, led by Jessica Payne of Harvard Medical School, set out to determine if sleep boosts the creation of emotionally salient memories, and memories relevant to future goals, when it follows soon after learning. At the heart of the study is the notion that the sleeping brain actively and selectively consolidates memory. So, let’s say that what you are trying to learn is a side of beef, and your sleeping brain is the butcher. When you sleep (according to this hypothesis) the butcher takes the side of beef and trims it down to a stack of top sirloin and fillet mignon.

It turns out that’s not too far off the mark, but it’s even better than that. The results show that not only does sleep consolidate the most relevant, adapative and useful information, but the effect can last for up to four months. The trick is that you have to sleep soon after learning. Waiting approximately 24 12 hours after learning negates the effect.

This research adds more substance to the argument that the sleeping brain isn’t dormant in any sense of the word. It’s actively calculating what’s most important about our recent experience, and selecting what can be consolidated for long-term storage.

And while we’re talking about sleep, below is an interesting video in two parts called “The Secrets of Sleep” about the remarkable sleep deprivation stunt of Peter Tripp, which became a classic case study in the field. It’s a really well done piece, about 15 minutes in total.

7 Comments

Filed under About Research

7 responses to “When It’s Learn or Lose, Sleep On It

  1. This theory has been arround for many years

  2. From the link you provide, it seems like you lose the benefit even if you go to sleep considerably less than 24 hours after learning. Guessing that the morning-study group went to sleep within a few hours of midnight, we’re looking at 12-15 hours. Or did you get the 24 hour number from elsewhere?

  3. Martin – good point. I think you’ve got that exactly right. Going back over it, I can see that I misread the 24 hour stat. Thanks for the catch!

  4. dfgfgfg

    It’s difficult to find well-informed people on this subject, however, you seem like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

  5. Great post! We are linking to this particularly great content on our website.
    Keep up the great writing.

  6. First off I want to say fantastic blog! I had a quick question which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind.
    I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear your mind
    before writing. I’ve had difficulty clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts
    out there. I do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15
    minutes are generally lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or tips?
    Appreciate it!

  7. With havin so much written content do you ever run into any problems of plagorism
    or copyright violation? My site has a lot of exclusive content I’ve either written myself or outsourced but it looks like a lot of
    it is popping it up all over the internet without
    my agreement. Do you know any ways to help reduce
    content from being ripped off? I’d certainly appreciate it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s