A new reason to sleep on it

1 min read

Cutting back on sleep to finish homework is self-defeating

In findings published in the December 2000 issue of Nature Neuroscience, a team of Harvard Medical School scientists found that people who stay up all night after learning and practicing a new task show little improvement in their performance. That means that school kids who are cutting back on sleep to finish ever mounting piles of homework are practicing a self-defeating strategy. And no amount of sleep on the following two nights can make up for the toll taken by the initial all-nighter. “We think that getting that first night’s sleep starts the process of memory consolidation,” said Robert Stickgold, assistant professor of psychiatry based at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center. “So there is a process whereby memories normally wash out of the brain unless some other process nails them down. My suspicion is that sleep is one of those things that does the nailing down.”