Sleep is important for the brain to consolidate memory. In fact, sleep isn’t just one type of experience, it’s many types, each with a specialized role in promoting memories in your brain. You need them all to ensure your brain is functioning at its highest levels. Here’s a breakdown of the different types of sleep and their role in memory.
Stage 2 Sleep
Stage 2 sleep is often described as a preparatory step for entering deep sleep. It is characterized by slowed heart rate and lowered body temperature. However, it is also characterized by both positive and negative brain waves, indicating complex activity. It is also a period where the muscles flex and relax intermittently.
The muscle action is a clue to what’s going on here. Studies have shown that stage 2 sleep plays an important role in consolidating muscle memories. Muscle memory is associated with learning complex motor tasks, including handwriting, sports, driving, and playing music.
Deep sleep, often broken down into stage 3 and stage 4 sleep, is characterized by slow brain waves, little motion, a slowed heartbeat, and little motion. This is where we consolidate most of our memories. This type of sleep is especially important to establishing what are described as “declarative memories,” memories such as facts and numbers. This makes getting deep sleep crucial to being able to operate many work-related tasks, and it’s important to get this type of sleep before that big presentation or sales meeting.
REM sleep is named for the episodes of rapid eye motion that occur during this sleep stage. REM sleep plays a role in motor memories, but also helps contribute to declarative memories. As we discussed earlier, REM sleep contributes to the formation of emotional memories, too, which plays an important role in overcoming PTSD.
Are You Getting the Right Kind of Sleep?
Many of us know that getting good sleep is more than a matter of just spending 8 hours or so in bed. Sleep apnea constantly awakens us, interrupting every stage of sleep, making it hard to reach the stages where memories are formed. If you are noticing memory problems, sleep apnea treatment may be just what you need.