Sleep to Learn

Lack of sleep deteriorates memory… unless perhaps it’s about negative things!

It’s been known for a long time that getting a good sleep after learning new things will help consolidate that new information into long term memory.

Now we also know that the amount of sleep before learning new things will impact our ability to encode it into memory.

After a full night’s sleep:

positive and negative events occurring that day

are better remembered than emotionally neutral events.

But after one night of sleep deprivation:

there can be a 40% reduction in the ability to lay down new memories,

and Matt Walker further reports that there is a bias…

  • negative stimuli occurring on the day after the sleep debt were the ones that were remembered a couple of days later
  • while there was a severe deficit in remembering the neutral, and especially the positive stimuli from that day

It appears that sleep debt has a profound impact on

remembering emotionally positive stimuli,

resulting in an overriding dominance of negative memories.

When our work hours and cognitive demands are increasing

and total sleep time is decreasing,

giving yourself permission for a full night’s sleep

is an excellent strategy to enhance your memory and learning.

Sleep.  Learn.  Sleep.  


For effective, practical stress management skills that enhance health and performance, check out the Stress Management & High Performance Clinic programs at

Kathy Somers, R.Kin, BCB


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