A recent post on NYTimes.com by Benedict Carey describes 3 distinct phases of sleep that impact cognitive performance. Everyone understands that being well rested helps you focus. It is less obvious that sleeping actually helps you lean and process information. But how and when during sleep does this unconscious learning take place?
Deep Sleep – This “knocked out cold” sleep at the beginning of the sleep cycle is when our brains consolidate facts, figures and language.
Stage 2 Sleep – During the second half of sleep our brains consolidate motor memory. This helps with physical skills that are important to playing sports or mastering musical instruments.
REM Sleep – This part of sleep where you actively dream helps with memory and comprehension. It is critical in deciphering patterns and solving complex problems. It is useful for memory in general and for skills that require problem solving like math and science.
Naps help too as they typically contain all phases of sleep.