Sleep, or your brain will murder you.
This is a fact that most university/college students seem to forget: sleep is kinda important and should be exercised regularly. Ever heard about REM, the “dreaming part” of sleep? Well, REM turns out to be more important for your grades than books and good notes combined.
That’s because REM sleep is a key part of the learning process. During the day, you pick up an immense amount of information from various sources: lectures, labs, tutorials, but also trivial sources like the billboards on your way to school or stories you hear from friends. Your brain makes neuron connections linking all that info together so that you can remember it later. However, your brain doesn’t really organize anything at this stage. That’s because you are still using your brain. Why is that such a big deal? Imagine you were trying to organize your CD collection, but while your roommate randomly borrows your Celine Dion Ultimate Fan Bootleg Collection CDs ™ – all 50 of em – listens to them, and returns them to you in random order. You wouldn’t be able to organise anything. Eventually your brain will get tired of keeping track of that unorganized mess: then it will start to hate you. It shows that relentless hate by making you sleepy and thus lazy and useless.
Eventually, you give in to the pressure your brain is putting on you and go to bed. Then your brain finally has time to get to work and make sense of all the new stuff that happened that day and store it into your long-term memory – think of it as archiving on a computer: archived stuff takes up way less space, but it’s still there and easily accessible. So when you wake up in the morning, yesterday’s events are clearer and make more sense. Also, you are well rested and ready for more stuff to happen.
In an average 8 hour sleep, there are 4-5 bouts of REM sleep that take up 20-25% of that time. That comes down to less than 2 hours of REM: and you need all of it. So, if you disrupt your sleeping pattern (let’s say with an all-night study run before a test), not only are you making yourself tired, but you are also preventing any new information from setting in. By not giving your brain time to organise all the stuff you are learning, you are ensuring that it won’t be properly ready for recall.