Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Sleep Deprivation and Memory Loss

What Happens When You Sleep?

Scientists don't know exactly how sleep enhances memory, but it appears to involve the brain's hippocampus and neocortex -- the part of the brain where long-term memories are stored. It is thought that during sleep, the hippocampus replays the events of the day for the neocortex, where it reviews and processes memories, helping them to last for the long term.

Researchers continue to investigate the stages of sleep involved in making certain types of memories. Some studies have shown that certain kinds of memories become stable during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep -- the time when you dream. Other studies have found that some types of memories are most often secured during slow-wave, deep sleep. Scientists are getting closer to understanding what sleep does to our brain, but there are still many questions to be answered.

What’s certain is that sleep is a biological necessity -- we need it to survive. Unfortunately, in this day and age, few of us are able to get the sleep we need to function our best. Experts recommend adults get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Although this may not be attainable every night, it should be the goal.

Sleep Tips

Here are some tips to help you get more sleep:

  • Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day.
  • Get regular exercise, but do not exercise close to bedtime. Experts recommend allowing at least three hours between exercise and bed.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine before going to sleep.
  • Take time to unwind before going to sleep. Take a warm bath, read a book, drink some caffeine-free tea, and avoid any activities that can cause tension.
  • Finish eating two to three hours before going to bed.
  • Create a pleasant sleeping environment: make the room dark, cool, and comfortable.
  • Use a sound machine, or other type of white noise device, to block out unwanted sounds.
  • Do not watch TV or use the computer in bed. Use your bedroom for sleep and sex only.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including getting regular and quality sleep, can be a challenge, especially when you are stressed with a work deadline or test. But, remember (and you need sleep to do this!), sleep is your friend. So, when it comes to learning and memory, sleep on it.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on August 30, 2015
1 | 2

Today on WebMD

fatigued senior woman
We’ve got 10 tips to show you how
Man snoring in bed
Know your myths from your facts.
Young woman sleeping
What do your dreams say about you?
woman eith hangover
It’s common, and really misunderstood.
Young woman sleeping
Cannot sleep
child sitting in bed
Woman with insomnia
nurse sleeping
Foods That Help Or Harm Your Sleep
Insomnia 20 Tips For Better Sleep
Pain at Night