With school starting up again, we as parents and grandparents always try to give our children the tools that they need to succeed. This usually means books, pencils, a back pack, and other supplies to help them learn. But did you know what is also important for learning and memory retention? Sleep.
Harvard University has linked lack of sleep with lack of focus, which makes sense. What many people don’t realize is that lack of sleep not only means quantity of sleep (as in hours rested), but also quality of sleep (as in how many hours you spend in deep REM sleep). A person that goes to bed at 10pm tosses and turns until 12am, then wakes up intermittently throughout the night until waking up at 6am isn’t getting 8 hours of good, restorative sleep. In fact, someone who goes to bed at 12am, but falls directly asleep, and stays in long REM sleep cycles will wake up feeling more rested, and more able to focus on tasks with energy.
There are three functions that need to occur during learning, according to The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School: Acquisition, Consolidation, and Recall. Acquisition is the process of actually learning the material, such as in class or by reading. Consolidation is the process that makes those memories of learning stable, and permanent. Recall is the process that allows for the mind to remember this learning, thus making it useful. Consolidation occurs while we are sleeping. Although scientists aren’t sure how, the brain processes the information received throughout the day, and stores it in the correct place. A student that is not getting proper sleep will not remember key learning points the next day, therefore making the original Acquisition process useless.
So when you’re getting your child ready to go to school or college, take a look at their sleeping situation. Is their twin sized bed too small for their bigger frames? Has it developed a dip or sag, therefore not giving the best support? If they’re on the way to college, check out the dorm mattress, and replace if necessary.
Another great idea is to get your children in a good sleep routine. Turn off electronics at least 30 minutes before bed time. Keep the bed clean, and not full of toys. Make sure that the temperature of the room is comfortable. Maintain the same sleep and wake times as much as possible.
We all want our children to get the most out of their education. In preparing them for the new school year, also prepare their brains to absorb and retain all that learning!