Research by Dr. Matthew Walker has shown how a good night’s sleep plays a role in learning by allowing the brain to efficiently store new information and encode memories, and even to provide 24% improvement in performance speed of a motor sequence learned during the day (2006). While the small motor sequence in the study is a poor representation of the learning a child must accomplish during their school days, research suggests that the different stages of sleep synthesize and encode all of the differing types of learning a child must accomplish.
For example, vocabulary is synthesized during slow-wave sleep, motor skills during non-REM sleep, emotionally-charged memories during REM sleep, and auditory memory across all the stages. The brain requires processing times proportionate to the amount of new knowledge; research suggests that the more learned in a particular day, the more sleep will be required that night; and that sleep after learning is necessary for the consolidation of new memories. This consolidation provides a more efficient storage of information which in turn may improve the ability to recall newly acquired knowledge the next day.
How do you learn?
The implication of current research is that good sleep can have far-reaching positive effects for children and learning, and that inadequate sleep can be related to symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, poor academic performance, and decreased ability to remember new knowledge. A child’s job is to learn, consistent and adequate sleep helps provide the tools children need to facilitate that learning process. Through increased attention, increased cognitive function, and increased ability to create memories, research shows that consistent and sufficient sleep can have a significant positive effect on learning in school-age children.