Jared Cooney Horvath is a globally recognized Science of Learning expert committed to helping teachers, students and parents achieve better outcomes through applied brain and behavioral science.

Sleep, Learning & Memory

It's a common question: How much sleep should a teenager get?


In this installment of 'From Theory to Practice', we look at a new piece of research that examines the fundamental linkage between sleep, learning and memory formation:


A Mechanism for Learning with Sleep Spindles (Adrien Peyrache and Julie Seibt, April 2020) LINK: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/do...


If you have any teenagers in your home or classroom -- or if you just remember your own high school sleeping habits -- you already know that staying up late, struggling to rise with the alarm clock, and snoozing until noon on weekends are par for the course.

One reason that adolescents become night owls is simply due to the demanding lifestyle of this age group -- which includes heavy loads of homework and busy social lives.


But another, more natural reason is triggered by a unique biological shift that occurs during the teenage years.


Scientists have known for a long time now that our biological clocks shift forward during adolescence! Instead of feeling drowsy in the evenings, teenagers tend to become more alert and have a difficult time settling into sleep (likely because melatonin, which causes sleepiness, is secreted on a delayed timetable).


By the same token, in the mornings -- when young children and adults are wide-awake and primed for the day -- teenagers maintain elevated melatonin levels, and often feel groggy as a result.


And this is exactly why the chorus of doctors and school administrators advocating for later high school start times has grown louder in recent years.

A teen who rises for school at 6:30 a.m. is fighting against a biological force of sleepiness, and later in the day might find it difficult to doze-off in time to make-up for this lost sleep.


In this video, I look at prominent piece of sleep research, and discuss the important relationship between sleep, learning memory formation.


Here are some of the questions I tackle in this installment:

  • What are the two unique forms of neuroplasticity … and which one is most prevalent during sleep?

  • What are sleep spindles … and why do scientists believe they are essential to long-term memory formation and consolidation?

  • What are sleep cycles … and why are they NOT all created equally?

  • How are teenagers unique with regard to sleep cycles and circadian rhythms … and how does this phenomenon conflict with traditional schooling practices?

  • What are the key takeaways for teachers when it comes to managing teenage/adolescent students and helping them achieve better learning outcomes?

Give it a watch, and let me know what you think in the comments.


And, as always, if you find this video valuable, interesting and/or entertaining, you can support us by liking, sharing and subscribing to our YouTube channel ;)



Video Transcript

Hello everybody, and welcome to this week's From Theory to Practice, where I take a look at the research so you don't have to.


The article I've selected this week is ‘A Mechanism for Learning with Sleep Spindles’ by Peyrache and Seibt.


Now, to understand this paper, we have to wrap our heads around the idea of plasticity.


So, you've probably heard this term before: plasticity. Your brain is constantly changing, and what's changing is the connections; the synapses; the way your brain communicates.


Now, plasticity actually comes in two unique flavors ...

Click to view remainder of the transcript ...

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