The Brain’s Courier Service

Without sufficient sleep, the ability to learn can decrease by up to 40%, the difference between “acing” an exam or failing it miserably!

By Joe Castignani

Have you ever stayed up all night to cram for an exam, or finish an assignment? It's a pretty common practice among students, but did you know that it could actually be harming your ability to retain information?

As it turns out, sleep plays a crucial role in memory formation and retention. Dr. Matthew Walker, a sleep scientist at the University of California, Berkeley (and my old professor!), explains that getting enough sleep before and after learning helps act as a “brain courier service” by preparing your brain for initial memory formation and then cementing that information into your brain's architecture by transporting memories to more permanent storage sites.

Why is this so?

During sleep, our brains cycle through different stages, including light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep. The non-REM stages of sleep appear to be particularly important for preparing the brain for optimal learning the next day. Without sufficient sleep, the ability to learn new things can decrease by up to 40%. This is the difference between “acing” an exam and failing it miserably!

So, if you're pulling all-nighters to study, it might not be the best strategy. Getting enough sleep before and after studying is essential for memory retention and cognitive performance.

It's recommended that adults consistently aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night to support optimal brain function. Enjoying a nap after a study session can also be beneficial to cementing those memories if it doesn’t interfere with your evening sleep routine.

What have we learned?

Establishing a consistent sleep schedule is your best choice for memory retention and recall.  So next time you have a big exam, assignment, or even a presentation at work, try preparing in advance and getting a good night's sleep instead of staying up all night. Your brain, your grades (or your boss) will thank you!

Scroll down and sign up for our monthly newsletter to learn more.

Dream big, work hard, sleep ambitiously,

Joe Castignani