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This is how sleep affects your child’s memory functions

By Dhrubaa Ghosh,

Proper sleep makes a child healthy and bright. Learn why the brain needs sleep.

Developing high tolerance for sleep deprivation can impact a child's memory negatively.

In our fast-paced world, lack of sleep is considered a sign of hard work and important in achieving success. Students and professionals ascribe to this view, and teens actually find lack of sleep ‘cool’. But developing high tolerance for sleep deprivation can be disastrous for children’s brains and limit memory performance, instead of enhancing it.  

How the memory gets refreshed by sleep  
Memory formation and learning happens in 3 steps: information acquisition, consolidation, recall and application. We acquire knowledge while awake, and retrieve and use it form our memory. When we sleep, our memory refreshes itself through amalgamation, strengthening and integration of new information with the pre-existing data. 

How our brain works at each stage of sleep  
This is an area of continual and fascinating research. Scientists and researchers have pointed out how every stage of sleep plays a role in memory formation. 

Stages of sleep: While the body rests in sleep, the brain remains busy. Our eye moves as we dream in light to medium sleep, and this is the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) phase, while deep, dreamless sleep does not involve REM. REM too has 3 phases or degrees of deep sleep.  

What the brain does during REM phase 2 and 3:  

  • As we sleep, slow brain waves of REM stage 2 and 3 transfers short term memory gained during waking hours to the storage locations deeper in the brain, creating the basis of long term memory  
  • This is when our brain consolidates fact-based memory, such as personal details and study material   
  • During the REM sleep, critical and creative thinking are strengthened. This leads to consolidation of procedural memory, that helps us perform tasks 
  •  Lighter stages of sleep develop motor learning which involves muscular coordination of all acts from brushing our teeth to typing on a keyboard 

What happens to kid’s brains when they lack sleep? 
Lack of sleep makes kids cranky, anxious and depressed, with chances of diabetes, hypertension and heart ailments. It also makes them slow learners, and simply more forgetful. So when we have a good night’s sleep, we are getting ready to realise our potential.