Want your kids to remember their multiplication sums, or, as is unfortunately the case nowadays, their year 12 essays? After drilling them daily, how about letting them get enough sleep – a newfound essential tool for memory consolidation.
Rasch and Born, Swiss and German university neuroscientists, reviewed over 140 studies about sleep's role in memory before releasing their findings. Contrary to what you would assume, the brain's hardly at rest during sleep; it is highly active, replaying the day's events and integrating them into long-term memory.
Dr Jennifer Smith, author of BUT I'M NOT TIRED! The nature of sleep, and how to nurture it in children and teenagers, explains how this works: "...memories [initially] go into short term storage in the brain and that short term storage is not reliable – the memories can be lost from there. During sleep, those memories are consolidated for long-term storage in a different area of the brain – the cortex."
As for how sleep does this, it's very complicated. Just know that when your child studies the information, "the memory traces are strengthened during sleep, so sleep actually 'hardwires' the memory", says Dr Smith. "The bottom line is that you can teach kids well, and they can learn their work when they're awake, but they'll remember it much better with good sleep habits."
So not only does sleep enhance recollections; it is the optimal brain mode for the memorisation of experiences and facts, like those pesky times tables. We already know that sufficient snooze time promotes healthy behaviour in youngsters. Now they have a further reason to nod off following ad nauseam essay learning.