I had read before that sleep helps you learn before, but I never knew that each type of sleep helps a different type of learning.
Memory of learned facts, whether they are names, places, numbers or Farsi verbs, seems to benefit in part from deep sleep. Healthy sleepers usually fall into deep sleep about 20 minutes or so after head meets pillow. They might spend an hour or more in those lolling depths early in the night, and typically less time later on. When cramming on facts, in short, it may be wiser to crash early at night and arise early, than to burn the candle until 2 a.m., the research suggests.Interesting. For learning facts, early sleep is more important, but for pattern recognition and motor learning late sleep is.
REM sleep, the bulk of which comes later in the night, seems important for pattern recognition — for learning grammar, for example, or to bird-watch, or play chess.
Not that Stage 2 is an empty corridor between destinations. In series of experiments that he began in the early 1990s, Dr. Carlyle Smith of Trent University in Canada has found a strong association between the amount of Stage 2 sleep a person gets and the improvement in learning motor tasks. Mastering a guitar, a hockey stick or a keyboard are all motor tasks.
For instance, Dr. Smith said that people typically got most of their Stage 2 sleep in the second half of the night. “The implication of this is that if you are preparing for a performance, a music recital, say, or skating performance, it’s better to stay up late than get up really early,” he said in an interview. “These coaches that have athletes or other performers up at 5 o’clock in the morning, I think that’s just crazy.”
via NY Times