How Sleep Affects Memory and Learning

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation


A good night’s sleep is essential for learning new info and remembering it later.

When you’re trying to learn new information or study for a test, you might be tempted to stay up late and review the material again and again. Hello, cramming! It's a popular tactic, but not a smart one. By burning the midnight oil, you're doing yourself a disservice by sacrificing slumber. Check out all the cognitive benefits that getting a good night’s sleep can bring. 

Enhanced Attention:

If you wake up feeling well rested, you’ll have greater mental clarity and focus, and you'll be able to respond faster to questions or stimuli. 

Learning Becomes Easier:

If you’re well rested, you’ll be able to master a new task (like learning how to play a song on the piano) more effectively than if you were sleep-deprived; this is known as procedural memory. During [sleep_term id="1219"], you’ll also sharpen your declarative memory—your knowledge of complex, fact-based information. 

Better Problem-Solving Skills:

After a good night’s sleep, you might wake up with a more creative idea for a project or solve a pesky problem.

Improved Recall:

A sound night’s sleep can help you better remember what you learned the day and speed up your thinking processes.

So the next time you’re tempted to skimp on sleep, remind yourself that getting enough shut-eye is important both before and after learning—to prepare your brain for the formation of memories and to help it save them so you can retrieve them later.