Scientists have found that if you need to remember a bunch of information (say, for a big exam), do NOT study right up until time for the exam. Study at least 24 hours before, and sleep on it.
They did a study at Harvard that proved this technique works. Participants were separated into three different groups after being shown images that they were told to memorize. One of the groups was tested on the memorization after 20 minutes, the other after 12 hours and the last after 24 hours.
The participants who slept on it and had 24 hours for the information to fester in their brain did the best on the test, while those who only had 20 minutes did the worst.
How does it work?
Scientists say the ability your brain has to retain information works in three different ways: acquisition, consolidation and recall. While the first and last occur while you’re awake, it’s the middle-man that is important during sleep.
When you sleep, your brain is constantly processing information that you couldn’t have processed with everything going on up there during the day. This works to strengthen your neurological bonds in the brain. Think of it like downloading something on a computer. When you go to download something while you are streaming a video on Youtube it takes longer, right? Close the video that you are streaming and you have a smoother, quicker download. Kind of like that.