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How Sleep Boosts Memory and Concentration

11/03/2013 | Room to Grow, Sleep | by Catherine Godiva

It has long been held that sleep is a vital part of life.  Indeed, the average person sleeps for a 3rd of their life and that sleep allows their body to heal, gain strength and build energy.  Recently is has been shown that beside these benefits sleep has a number of others, including the ability to boost memory and improves concentration. 

Scientists believe that there is a connection between the different types of memories that we have (long and short term, for example) and the various stages of sleep that we experience while we are sleeping.  For example, the knowledge that forms ‘declarative memory’, the memories that tell us what we know like the capital of the England or the film we watched last night, seem to have a relationship with what they call Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. In a research study they found that people involved in an intense language course had more REM sleep than usual. Scientists also believe that if a person experiences emotionally charged and complex information they will experience the same increased REM sleep.  It is believed that this type of sleep is thus necessary to form declarative memory.

Another type or stage of sleep known as slow-wave sleep (SWS), the type that the body needs to restore itself and rejuvenate every night, also plays a role in the consolidation of new memories into long and / or short term areas of the brain and also plays a major role in learning new tasks like the motor coordination needed to learn a new instrument.

The ability to concentrate during the day is greatly enhanced or worsened not only by the amount of sleep that a person gets but by the quality of that sleep.  For example, a person that experiences lots of SWS sleep is going to be more awake, more revitalized and thus better able to concentrate during the day than a person who sleeps fitfully and awakens several times during the night or doesn’t get enough sleep.

The simple fact is that just as the muscles, organs and other parts of the body regenerate at night when we sleep the brain regenerates also.  If a person gets sufficient and high quality sleep their body is going to improve as well as their memory and their ability to concentrate on whatever it is that they’re doing during the day, whether it’ studying or learning how to perform a new skill.

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