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Improve Your Memory with a Good Night's Sleep

Improve Your Memory with a Good Night's Sleep

You've got something big happening tomorrow: Maybe a presentation to your boss. Or a speech at your best friend's wedding. Or the lieutenant's test. You're already sweating bullets, afraid you'll go totally blank, forgetting everything. What to do?

It's as easy as the Texas Two-Step (actually, it's easier). Step one, prepare in advance today by repeatedly reviewing the material you'll need to remember tomorrow. Step two, go to sleep. Early. How's that for simple? 

A good night's sleep helps solidify the memory of what you just learned. But it works best when you know that knowledge will be put to the test the next day. That gives your brain the mental motivation needed to process those memories as you sleep, moving them from the part of your brain that stores them temporarily (the hippocampus) to the part that puts them in long-term storage (the neocortex), where it's easy for you to find and retrieve 'em.

Too nervous to sleep?
Here's how to doze off -- and wake up smarter:

  • Exercise during the day, just not within 2 hours of bedtime; activity soothes stress.
  • Put all your electronic toys to sleep an hour before you turn in. The flickering light from computers, TVs, and cell phones keeps your brain in wake-up mode.
  • Make the room cool and dark: That tells your pineal gland to step up production of sleep-inducing melatonin. While your body snoozes, your brain can get busy integrating those memories you'll need tomorrow, so you can and rise and shine.

Too nervous to sleep? Watch this video to learn good habits you should break to sleep better.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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