We’ve probably all been given the sage advice of getting a good night’s sleep before a test or exam. But I wonder, if we really knew just how valuable the advice was, if we might have taken it more readily and not sat up till ridiculous hours cramming!? Let’s take Key Steps this week to understand how to…

Sleep Your Way to Remembering

Your “Key Steps” Coaching for the week ahead:

1. The long-term storage of memories occurs while you sleep. Basically, our brain constructs and reorganises its circuits while we sleep. Several researchers have shown that neuronal representations of memories are reactivated during sleep, as if the brain were replaying a recording. The replay is essential to long-term memory storage, possibly because it redistributes neuronal connections from short-term memory to long-term storage sites in the neocortex.

2. How does the brain “decide” what to keep and what to dump? Although most of what was encoded into memory is shed (e.g. where you parked your car or what you had for breakfast), the “important stuff” remains (e.g. a major disagreement with a spouse or a promising job interview). A study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, concludes that the brain evaluates information based on future expectations. After a good night’s sleep, we remember information better when we know it will be useful in the future.

During the study involving two groups, one group was warned they would be tested after learning new tasks while the other group was not warned. Also, some, but not all, of the volunteers were allowed to sleep between the time they learned the tasks and the time they took the tests. Sleep compared with wakefulness produced a strong improvement on test performance but only if the subjects had been informed about the test. So, the bottom line is, pre-warn yourself of the importance of certain information that will be useful in future and then get a good night’s sleep! Your brain will do the rest so you can…

“be the difference that makes the difference