The Role of Sleep in Test Preparation
Preparing for an English Test? Get PLENTY of Sleep!
Sleep is critical in general learning and specifically in test preparation. Research has proven that sleep affects both learning and memory formation in two ways:
1) The ability to focus on test preparation materials and learn efficiently depends on adequate sleep, and
2) Remembering information so that it can be used at a later time also depends on adequate sleep.
There are two 'parts' of sleep – getting enough sleep during the night so you awaken refreshed and ready to go, and napping during the day, particularly after you’ve been studying a lot of information. Learned information is stored in short-term memory. Memories can be fact-based, such as learning all the modal auxiliary verbs; they can be where you remember events that happen in your life, such as meeting your spouse or having a birthday party; and they can also be procedural/instructional such as learning the stages in a written argument.
For something to become a memory, three things must occur:
- Acquisition of information – learning or experiencing something new
- Consolidation – storing the memory in a stable form
- Recall – having the ability to access the memory at a later time
Acquisition and recall take place while you are awake; however, researchers believe sleep is necessary for consolidation of a memory, no matter what type the memory is. Studies involving memory tests show that after just one night of sleep, people perform better on tests.
But what about naps? Studies have also shown that taking a nap in the middle of the day after you’ve learned something new can help you retain the information much longer than if you remain awake. Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley took a group of healthy adults and divided them into two groups. Both groups were given a rigorous fact-based learning task at noon designed to test their information recall, and both groups performed at comparable levels on that test. Then, one half of the group took a 90-minute nap – a period long enough to go through a full sleep cycle – while the other group stayed awake. At 6:00 p.m., both groups were once again given a round of tasks. Those who had taken the nap performed significantly better and actually improved in their capacity to learn, according to the researchers.
Matthew Walker, an assistant professor of psychology at Berkeley and the lead investigator of the study said that exactly why the nap works “is still a mystery. One theory is that particular types of brain-wave patterns that occur during sleep help change the storage locations of recently stored information from short-term to long-term, such that when you wake up, the short-term capacity for new memory formation is refreshed.” This finding reinforced the researchers’ hypothesis that sleep is needed to clear the brain’s short-term memory storage in the hippocampus, which then makes room for new information. It also explains why studying all night before an exam leaves you with very little recall after the test is through.
Scott's English Success (www.scottsenglish.com) and Scott's English PLUS (www.scottsenglishplus.com) can help you get ready for your upcoming English test but YOU need to make sure you get sufficient sleep