“I’ll sleep on it” might be truer than you think. In this short video, neuroscientist Michael Merzenich explains how sleep cleans irrelevant information during REM, consolidates information (moderate sleep) and chemically rejuvenates the brain.
And recently, an article on the Wall Street Journal reported that some researchers believe sleep is a time to learn something new.
Hypnopedia is the term for sleep-learning. The mechanism is the activation of the hippocampus (the area of the brain related to memory and learning) during certain sleep cycles. According to Dr. Sanam Hafeez, this activation happens through neural oscillations, or what we experience as up-and-down wakefulness when our heart slows and our body temperature drops. It is the consolidating phase Dr. Merzenich speaks about.
To take advantage of this, we are recommended to cut coffee by 4 pm and exercise before going to bed. The last recommendation is not endorsed by everyone because people tend to eat after exercising which is not good before going to sleep.
For many years I didn’t pay any attention to sleep and thought only unproductive people invest in sleeping. It was one of the biggest mistakes in my life and I see my students often repeat it. Students who study late before an exam, and do it systematically throughout the week, jeopardize their performance.
I’m recovering now, but I know it will take months. However, it’s comforting to know research confirms any investment you make to improve how you sleep is worth the time. It will boost learning and this is music to the ears of any learning mind.