Life & Work

Study, sleep, then review: The secret to enduring retention of information


The ticking clock of an upcoming exam, the demanding preparation for a high-stakes meeting, or the pressure of remembering essential details of daily life can seem relentless. FILE PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

In our whirlwind lives, the struggle to retain a deluge of information often seems like a Sisyphean task.

The ticking clock of an upcoming exam, the demanding preparation for a high-stakes meeting, or the pressure of remembering essential details of daily life can seem relentless.

Amid this cognitive onslaught, how do we absorb, hold onto, and effectively recall the knowledge we need?

The quest for effective knowledge retention extends beyond the academic sphere. Whether you are a student grappling with a challenging curriculum, a business professional prepping for a crucial presentation, or a parent juggling a myriad of daily responsibilities, the ability to remember information accurately proves fundamental to success.

However, the consistent attainment of this capability often eludes us. We pour hours into studying or preparing, only to find our memories fickle and unreliable when we need them the most.

Imagine a scenario: You studied relentlessly for a test, only to draw a blank when faced with the final examination paper.

Or consider a business presentation that you meticulously prepared for, only to forget key points mid-way through.

While frustrating, a solution to these woes lies not in the endless hours of toiling and preparation, but in intentionally coupling the conscious and subconscious minds with a simple yet powerful regimen.

An intriguing study shows that a triad of actions makes us far more powerful in remembering important information over the long term: 'study, sleep, then review.'

Authored by Stéphanie Mazza, Emilie Gerbier, Marie-Paule Gustin, Zumrut Kasikci, Olivier Koenig, Thomas C. Toppino, and Michel Magnin, the study delves into the role of repeated practice and sleep in enhancing enduring retention of information.

In the experiment, 40 participants learned foreign vocabulary in two sessions, 12 hours apart, until they mastered the content.

While half of the individuals learned and relearned during the day, the other half followed a different method of learning in the evening, then sleeping, and then reviewing in the morning.

The results struck a shocking chord. Those participants who slept between learning sessions not only reduce the amount of practice needed by half but also secured much better long-term retention.

What secrets does sleep hold that we can harness to improve learning? Sleep, a period of rest, actually brims with activity in our subconscious mind, a powerful ally in processing and consolidating information.

Slumber seems to offer an intermission, allowing the mind to rehearse that day's learning lessons, solidify the memory traces, and prepare for the next act of recalling the information later when needed.

Interestingly, the study suggests that sleep does not merely complement learning, but it actually strategically intersperses it.

By interleaving sleep between learning sessions, we do not just conserve our practice time but also ensure our ability to remember over the long haul.

It appears that the dance of conscious effort during awake learning and subconscious rehearsal during sleep choreographs a perfect routine for memory.

Business Talk in the Business Daily has previously highlighted several research studies showing the power of harnessing the subconscious mind to enhance business performance.

But today marks the first time focusing on the subconscious usage of sleep as a tool rather than just relaxing in-between moments of consciousness.

Inasmuch, please note that the implications of these findings reach far beyond only academic exam preparation. The power of conscious and subconscious mind interplay can enhance several aspects of our lives.

Consider public speaking by studying a speech before bed, sleeping on it, and reviewing it upon waking, speakers may confidently take the stage, needing fewer prompts and creating more impact in their audience’s minds.

Similarly, business professionals preparing for presentations or meetings can take advantage of the sleep-learning regimen to better retain and present information without continually referring to notes.

Moreover, the customer-facing staff in a firm can better remember customer preferences and information, ensuring a more personalised and effective service.

It seems that from academia to the corporate world, the sleep-learning strategy holds the key to improved personal performance and efficiency.

In a world that often celebrates burning the midnight oil, the study offers a transformative perspective that the secret to effective learning might not lie in more hours of study, but in strategically interspersing sleep.

So, next time you prepare for an academic or industry exam or presentation, remember to study, sleep, and then review. Enjoy your sleep. It might just be the harmony your mind needs to perform at its peak.