Smart while you sleep – Can sleep improve memory?

We learn in our sleep! Our brain is also highly active during sleep and ensures that information is stored, memory is consolidated and what we have learned is processed. You can find out here whether sleeping really makes you smart and can help with learning.

 Table of Contents

    1. The brain while sleeping
    2. Sleep & Memory
    3. Does a lot of sleep make you smart?
    4. Tips for learning while you sleep
    5. Conclusion

    1. The brain in sleep

    Our brain really works around the clock and remains active even at night when we sleep. During sleep, it is constantly busy processing experiences, storing information and consolidating memory. A special property of the human brain is our ability to learn. The most important basis for this is the so-called plasticity of the brain, i.e. the ability of nerve cells and entire brain areas to change their properties depending on their use and activation. To put it more simply: Our brain structures can adapt very well to new tasks and information, store them in the long term and use them when necessary. Our sleep plays a central role in these learning and memory processes.

    2. Sleep and memory

    Memory is very valuable to us humans - it helps us to learn, understand, remember and even know who we are. During sleep, especially deep sleep, the memory content that we have absorbed and learned during the day is consolidated. As a rule, all experiences of the day are initially stored in the so-called hippocampus. In the evening we can therefore remember the many details of the day very well. If these memories are not consolidated, that is, stored in greater depth, they will fall apart again and be forgotten. Only when they are transferred to our long-term memory, which is primarily located in the cerebral cortex, do they become permanent memories. And it is precisely this transfer from the hippocampus to the cerebral cortex that takes place during deep sleep.

    smartsleep Schlafmagazin: Übertragung von Informationen im Gehirn bei Lern- und Gedächtnisprozessen im Schlaf

    What is interesting is that the learned content can change qualitatively during transmission, as if it were going through a kind of filter. Usually only the essentials are retained, for example memories with emotional meaning or new rules and structures. However, it is not yet known exactly which criteria our brain uses to evaluate information. However, studies show that content can be processed and stored more intensively if we know that it will be needed or requested again - for example when we are preparing for an exam.

    3. Does a lot of sleep make you smart?

    Consolidation occurs mainly in the early deep sleep phases at the beginning of the night. In order to make optimal use of your own learning ability and memory performance, it is important to sleep for a sufficiently long time and without interruption, because lack of sleep and frequent sleep interruptions reduce the deep sleep portion of our sleep and thus also influence memory formation. With healthy sleep, the natural sleep structure can be maintained and the brain can work undisturbed. Especially in stressful learning phases, it is therefore very important to sleep as undisturbed as possible and for a sufficient amount of time in order not to reduce your own performance on the day when you study the night before the exam and cannot find any rest.

    Important: We can't be more than well rested. On the contrary, too much sleep can have negative effects and even reduce your performance. You can find out more about this in this article.

    4. Tips for learning while you sleep

    Lack of sleep and frequent sleep interruptions reduce the amount of deep sleep in our sleep and thus also influence memory formation at night. To support your learning success and wake up in the morning rested and perhaps even a little wiser, you should always make sure to sleep as undisturbed and for a sufficient amount of time.

    #1 repeats in the evening

    smartsleep Schlafmagazin: Frau lernt im Bett am Abend für besseres Lernen und Gedächtnis im Schlaf

    The learning success through consolidation seems to be particularly strong when what is to be learned is consciously presented again in the evening before going to sleep.Especially on the evening before an important exam, it is advisable to repeat the most important content again and then get a good night's sleep instead of studying through the night and showing up to the exam tired.

    #2 Physical activity per day

    Various studies show that physical activity (v.a moderate endurance training) has a positive effect on brain functions and structures. During activity, the production of growth hormones is stimulated (HGH, BDNF), which are important for the function of nerve cells and memory processes. Regular exercise also has a positive effect on sleep and thus contributes to optimal conditions for information processing at night.

    #3 Balanced diet rich in vitamins and proteins

    When new nerve connections form to further shape our memory, energy and building blocks are needed at the molecular level. Therefore, especially in the evening, make sure to eat a healthy and balanced diet and to provide your body with enough amino acids (proteins), vitamins and minerals to supply. These have a beneficial effect on numerous physiological and anabolic processes and can help support regeneration and learning during sleep.

    So that it doesn't make falling asleep more difficult and, at best, your sleep is not interrupted, you should also avoid stimulating substances such as alcohol, caffeine or nicotine some time before going to bed.

    #4 Avoid sleeping pills

    Sleeping pills disrupt our sleep in an unnatural way, can become addictive and suppress the naturally occurring delta brain waves, which are significantly involved in the transmission and storage of memories, during deep sleep. However, there are many herbal extracts and preparations that can gently help reduce stress, support relaxation in the evening and promote sleep in its natural function. Then nothing stands in the way of a restful night and your brain can devote itself to its important task in peace.

    5. Conclusion

    • The brain is also active during sleep to store information, process experiences and form memory.
    • The important learning and memory processes take place especially during deep sleep at the beginning of the night, which is why we should sleep for a sufficient amount of time.
    • Repeating learning in the evening, exercising during the day, a diet rich in protein and vitamins, and avoiding stimulants and sleeping pills can effectively support sleep and learning and memory performance.

    Greetings and see you soon!

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