Sleeping 7-8 hours per night has an enormous impact on your ability to learn. Cutting sleep, even for as little as one night, can have irreversible impacts on what you learn both before and after, in your fatigued state.
Pulling all-nighters should be banned from your life as a valid tool to cram information. The costs are simply too high.
Even if you’re not staying up for days on end trying to learn, few of us get the sleep we need to learn at our best.
What You’re Doing When Sleeping
Sleep is not a passive activity. Although it seems like you’re doing nothing but resting, the mind is highly active during your moments of slumber.
While your head is on the pillow, your brain is engaging in very important work. This includes:
One of the first studies to demonstrate the importance of sleep to memory was the 1924 study by John Jenkins and Karl Dallenbach. In it, they compared rates of forgetting over the same time period when subjects were awake and asleep. The results are quite dramatic:
NREM sleep plays a particularly important role, with sleep researcher Matthew Walker explains:
“Indeed, if you were a participant in such a study [on sleep and memory], and the only information I had was the amount of deep NREM sleep you had obtained that night, I could predict with high accuracy how much you would remember in the upcoming memory test upon awakening, even before you took it.”