Sleep, memory and learning: a perfect trifecta

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Every one of us can recall making the decision to sacrifice sleep in order to meet a deadline, write a paper, or finish something for work.  We convince ourselves that in order to be productive we must push through when in fact the opposite is true. We should go to bed. 

A good night’s sleep is crucial to memory and learning. During sleep the brain is hard at work, making connections and solving problems so that we can take in new information the next day.  Sleep also helps “cement” memories. Studies show that attaining the deepest  level of sleep, known as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, within 12 hours of learning can strengthen those memories.

The bottom line for our students: Skimping on sleep during exam prep time can negatively affect your ability to retain what you’ve learned.

So, what does this mean for parents of school age children? The process of getting ready for sleep begins the moment your children arrive home from school. Help them ease of out of their day by establishing routines that will signal to their brains the gradual shift from high to reduced activity. This might include limiting screen time, enjoying a family meal, and, as bedtime approaches, settling in together with a good book (or books). For parents of teenagers this process is complicated by the near constant stream of digital information they take in and by their busy after-school schedules. But maintaining a routine and some of the same bedtime practices, like turning off cell phones or, better yet, storing them in some other area of the home (any place but the bedroom) can help older students to adopt healthy sleep habits. Click for full article and references.

Article provided by Friends School of Baltimore, written by Greta Rutstein, Director of Academics.  To learn more about the Friends School of Baltimore, visit their website at

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