Sleep-Dependent Learning

Authored by: Daan R. van der Veen , Simon N. Archer

The Routledge International Handbook of Learning

Print publication date:  December  2011
Online publication date:  May  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415571302
eBook ISBN: 9780203357385
Adobe ISBN: 9781136598562


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When we are asleep, we show levels of unconsciousness, are less vigilant and less responsive to outside stimuli. These behavioural characteristics of sleep are easily reversible during wakefulness, and they can be applied to many species. Sleep is best discerned from conscious rest by investigation of the electrical properties of the brain measured by the electroencephalogram (EEG). In mammals, sleep is broadly sub-divided into ‘rapid eye movement’ (REM) and ‘non-rapid eye movement’ (nonREM) sleep, with a further specification of four levels (1 through 4) of nonREM sleep in primates. NonREM sleep is also known as slow wave sleep (SWS). Figure 27.1 shows the time course of a typical first 3 hours of human sleep. At the onset, we quickly move through the first three nonREM sleep stages, ending at stage 4, the deepest nonREM sleep stage. After remaining in nonREM sleep for some time, we leave deep sleep, and enter into REM sleep. We cycle through these stages and, during a typical night, each nonREM–REM sleep cycle lasts approximately 1.5 hours. Throughout the night, time spent in REM and nonREM sleep is not equally distributed. In the early night we spend more time in nonREM sleep, while in the latter part of the night REM sleep is more predominant than at the beginning of the night. Figure 27.1 Example of sleep architecture consisting of multiple sleep cycles. During a typical night, we cycle through stages of nonREM and REM sleep. Each cycle lasts approximately 1.5 hours, and different sleep stages show distinct electroencephalographic properties and muscle tone

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