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How lack of sleep affects learning

 

Narrator:           This is Science Today. Most people have heard that rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep is important for processing memories. But now scientists at the University of California, Berkeley believe that non-REM sleep — or the lighter sleep you experience toward the end of the night — is just as important.

Mander:            We're interested in, does sleep facilitate your ability to learn afterwards?

Narrator:           Bryce Mander, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of psychology, was part of a study that found people who didn't have sleep had significant deterioration in their learning abilities.

Mander:            Sleep somehow facilitated your ability to take in new information. That shows you that sleep doesn't just help you remembered stuff you learned beforehand, but also helps you learn stuff afterwards.

Narrator:           During non-REM sleep, bursts of brain waves called sleep spindles may help to transfer new memories from the brain's hippocampus to its pre-frontal cortex. The process frees up the hippocampus to take in fresh data, which helps with learning once you're awake. 

Mander:             It's kind of like a hard drive filling up and then sleep comes in and clears the hard drive so you can put more stuff on it.            

Narrator:           For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.