How Sleep Impacts Your Learning and Memory Capabilities

Whether at work or school, you need a good memory and the ability to learn to do well in life. Unfortunately, these vital brain capabilities can be compromised by regular sleep deprivation. Here’s a look at previous scientific research demonstrating that having a good sleep every day is great for your cognitive performance.

Impact of Sleep on Academic Performance

In a 2019 study, two MIT researchers established a strong connection between sleep and college grades. According to their findings, less sleep throughout the semester resulted in poorer test scores among students. However, numerous other studies have shown that sleep impacts different brain functions with an overall effect on test performance. Impacted abilities include:

  • Retention
  • Recall
  • Long-term memory
  • Learning
  • Creative problem solving

Better Sleep Enhances Your Learning Ability

Scientists believe that people store any new facts they learn in a limited memory location in the brain. When that storage is full, it can’t keep any additional details until you get enough sleep. Sleep allows your brain to replenish and create room to capture and preserve new information. According to scientists, it’s important that your sleep gets past Stages 2 and 3 to reset your learning potential.

Enough Sleep Improves Your Recall Capacity

Research suggests that Stage 3 sleep plays a crucial role in boosting the ability to memorize and recall. This phase of your night’s rest is also called NREM, meaning that it doesn’t feature rapid eye movements. Therefore, by getting NREM sleep, you could enhance your capacity to retain memory and recall things by 20% to 40%.

Correlation Between Sleep and Long-Term Memory

You can remember many things you learned long ago because your brain has a permanent location to store them. However, any new facts or experiences you encounter each day have to be transferred from temporary storage to long-term memory for you to be able to remember them in the future. According to scientists, phase 3 sleep plays a vital role in that process. They theorize that, during this stage, slow brain waves help to move information from short-term memory to more permanent storage in the brain.

Sleep Improves Problem-Solving

If you want better critical thinking and creative problem-solving capabilities, you should try to enjoy your sleep up to the final stage or REM every night. Scientists recommend it after discovering that people who woke up during this sleep phase performed well in creative problem-solving. They were able to solve up to 35% more puzzles than they could after waking up from Stage 3 sleep.


If scientific research on the brain over the years is anything to go by, getting enough sleep regularly is good for your cognitive health. All four sleep stages are important to maximize your ability to learn, solve problems creatively, and remember facts.

If you’d like to pursue a holistic wellness program that incorporates physical, mental, and spiritual elements, contact us at Genesis Performance. Our time-tested strategies can help you reach and maintain the optimal health and vitality levels you’ve always desired!


Jenna Dillon

Founder & CEO

Jenna is an Executive Coach committed to working with high performing individuals and companies who are up to exploring what they’re capable of achieving within their lives, careers, company culture and leadership. She is passionate about empowering her clients - standing with them and for them - so they have the tools to create extraordinary results.