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Something to sleep on...

 Not enough sleep can be hugely detrimental to learning.

As we all know, sleep is essential for both our health and our ability to learn. But though we know it instinctively, it's good to understand the science behind the statement. That way we can better incorporate healthy sleeping practices into our routines.

What's the reason behind sleep?

Firstly, it's good to understand why we sleep. Humans need sleep to rest the body and the mind, but also to allow the brain to process what we have learned during the day into memories and to store them (that's part of the reason babies and young children require so much sleep time).

All scientists agree on the link between optimum sleep and optimum learning. If we're tired, it's not only our bodies that suffer but also our brains. Our memories don't work at the same speed, meaning we're not as capable as retaining or recalling information, which is disastrous if we're trying to revise.

Study then sleep for the best results

In a recent study, 207 students who slept regularly for six hours minimum were given a range of words to remember. They were then tested at regular intervals over a 24-hour period. The results showed that the highest recall occurred when the students slept after having studied, suggesting that when we sleep our brains work to retain the information. This research is backed up by several other studies including ones that show how taking a nap can enhance your learning ability.

Most adults need between six and eight hours of sleep a night in order to feel refreshed and for their brains to be functioning at maximum speed. But it's important to recognise that this varies from person to person due to a range of factors that includes everything from DNA to accumulated sleep debt (past lost sleep). While there's still lots of research to be done, the one thing all scientists agree on is that not enough sleep can be hugely detrimental to learning.

If you're struggling to fit your TAFE NSW studies around your life and still find time for a good night's sleep, it's worth considering the rule of getting around six to eight hours' rest every night and making that a priority. In other words, there's no point spending time studying and then not sleeping.

Source: PLOS One