Human memory is one of the most interesting functions of the human brain. It has been a subject of scientific study for a long time and the resulting findings shed new light on how human memory works. The new finding makes an interesting topic especially to students studying the current trends in psychology.
One of the major developments in psychology is the relationship between memory and learning. Saey (2011), explains how sleeping can aid memory. Sleep may helps learners in formation of accurate memories of what they learn as human brain works well when asleep than when awake. Other than memory formation, sleep can help people overcome trauma.
It is possible to replace a traumatic memory with a pleasant one then take a brief moment of sleep to reinforce the pleasant memory. The purpose of this paper is to explain how sleep aids memory and how people can make use of sleep to induce memory recall, or even replace unpleasant memories with pleasant ones.
Saey (2011) explains the human brain does not work the same way in formation of long-term memories when people are asleep than when they are awake.
This is because of the fact that when asleep, hippocampus takes up all memory formation activity in the brain. The hippocampus is a very powerful brain part and is involved in transfer of information from short term to long term. This make makes it possible to learn something and then strengthen that memory with a brief moment of sleep.
These findings are as a result of a research done on the effect of sleep and memory formation. A group of research volunteers was engaged in a game that needed them to recall where some pairs of cards had been placed.
Initially their memory was enhanced by associating powerful odors to particular cards followed by a brief moment of sleep. Recall of the location of cards was recorded at 60%, for the whole group and 41% for the volunteers who stayed wake.
The recall rate improved tremendously to 84% upon reinforcing the volunteers’ memories with only a nap following the game. The biggest question under investigation by psychologist now is whether memory can be consolidated during rapid eye movement sleep.
These new findings are beneficial in day-to-day life. Gais, Brian and Jan (2006) explain that sleep, after learning, can be beneficial to students who are preparing for exams as it aids long term recall. Sleep should occur not long after learning because long periods between learning and sleep can interfere with memory formation during sleep (Articlebase, 2008).
However , sleep enhanced memory, when done for a long period of time consistently eliminates the effects of any activity done between learning and sleeping and is also equally effective regardless the time of the day a person sleeps (Gais, Brian, and Jan, 2006).
This finding aims to encourage students to take a nap after reading regardless of the time of the day to improve knowledge recall and hence improved performance in exams.
Gais, Brian, & Jan (2006) also add that not having enough sleep has negative effects on memory formation. This means that students who spend sleepless night reading have a higher probability of poor performance than students who sleep well after studies.
Sleep enhanced memory is also applicable in emotional learning, especially with people dealing with stressful and traumatic memories and are struggling to cope with them.
Saey (2011) explains that psychotherapist’s can help people dealing with trauma overcome it by taking them through a pleasant experience, which is soon followed by a nap. The positive experience is enhanced into the long-term memory and thus replacing the traumatic memory.
This will help the victim to forget the unpleasant memories because during sleep, memories are formed in the hippocampus, which transfers information to long term memory faster during sleep than when awake (Saey, 2011). Sleep will therefore help the speed of replacing these unpleasant memories.
Learning of motor skills is not only limited to practice alone but also sleep. Research has found out that sleep enhances learning of motor skills. Schlaug, Stick gold, Alsop and Gaab (2005) in their studies explains that sleep helps to improve the performance of motor activity.
The cerebellum, the motor skill control centre, is more active immediately after sleep, therefore improving performance when learning difficult motor tasks such as playing the piano, active sports, music and other highly motorized skills.
This proves why babies learning to walk and invalids re-learning motor skills more need time to sleep, as it will aim in recalling the procedure of performing, and consolidation of motor skills (Schlaug, Stickgold, Alsop. and Gaab, 2005)
In conclusion, sleep is more than rest activity. It has been found out to be a very powerful memory enhancer. Other than helping in recall of factual knowledge by student and relearning of motor skills, it is also an effective tool for helping victims of trauma. In this case, it helps to emphasize the memory of one emotional feeling over another. People must therefore engage in very healthy sleeping habits to improve their memories and the overall health of their brains.
Articlebase (Nov 02, 2008). Improve Memory and Recall With Sleep. Retrieved from
Gais, S., Brian, L. & Born, J, (2011). Sleeping after learning aids memory recall. D.O.I: 10.1101/lm.132106
Saey, T., (2011). Sleep Makes the Memory: Napping while reliving memories stabilizes people’s ability to recall them later. Science News. Retrieved from http://www.usnews.com/science/articles/2011/01/25/sleep-makes-the-memory
Schlaug, G., Stickgold, R., Alsop, D. & Gaab N. (2005). Study Shows How Sleep Improves Memory. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/06/050629070337.htm