How Sleep Can Improve Your Memory

Learn about the links between a good night's sleep and memory.


By Richard Jimenez


For a majority of the population, it is important to recall things the next day or in the long run. Whether you are a college student or a teacher, long-term memory is critical in our daily lives. One way to boost your retention of declarative memories, memories that are involved in recalling facts or knowledge, is to make sure you get a good night’s sleep.

More specifically, experiments have shown that stages 3 and 4 of deep sleep are critical to consolidating memories. Throughout the night, you go through 90-minute sleep cycles, each composed of 5 stages. During Stage 1, you find yourself in light sleep and can be awaken easily. In stage 2, you enter a deeper form of sleep as your brain waves begin to slow.

Stage 3 and 4, commonly known as slow wave sleep, is when your brain waves fire at the same time makes it very difficult for you to wake you up. In the last stage known as Rapid Eye Movement (REM), your eyes move back and forth rapidly. This is when most of your dreams occur.

But how does this work? Why is sleep so critical in transferring your short-term memory to your long-term memory? Studies have revealed that Stage 3 and 4 of non rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, roughly two hours into your night’s sleep, are responsible for creating long-term memories. During these stages, which comprise slow wave sleep (SWS), your brainwaves slow and work in synchrony with other parts of your brain to create deeper and stronger connections.

So, if you’re interested in being able to memorize information the next day, it is best to take a nap of at least two hours or get a good night’s sleep. By doing so, you will maximize the amount of time your body spends in slow wave sleep and strengthen newly learned information.

Fortunately, this discovery in health technology research will have a significant impact on people and our behavior in the future! As you age over time, your body decreases the amount of time that you spend in slow wave sleep, which is correlated with memory formation. This results in cognitive decline and illnesses such as dementia.

Fortunately, a new sleep therapy is being studied that can help increase the amount of time that your body spends in slow wave sleep. In the upcoming years, researchers can advance these sleep therapies which can help minimize aging and dementia. By using Sleep Time, which is now integrated in Argus, you can analyze how much deep sleep you’re getting every night and maximize your ability to recall information the next day!

Richard was raised in California and is currently studying Psychology and Biology at UC Berkeley. He likes to play soccer and go to the gym. He hopes to be a sports medicine surgeon one day.

Photo Credit: Death to Stock