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Sleep on it

September 10, 2013


A new school year has started at the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology.  There are 56 brand new MSc-SLP students who are eager to dive into their studies.  The course material and assignments can get intense, which in turn may eat into lifestyle.  Besides the challenges of maintaining a healthy amount of exercise, eating well, and spending time with friends, we often allow our academic lives to steal from an often-undervalued part of our day: sleep.  I’m certainly guilty of this — I’ve regretted more than a few late nights or even an occasional all-nighter.

For the student, sleep is crucial to both your well-being and your academic success.  There is research suggesting that sleep plays a role in consolidating memories and making memories stronger: get a good night’s sleep and get all your knowledge lined up for the test!  Loss of sleep also appears to limit our creative and emotional abilities, which are definitely needed in any practitioner’s arsenal.  Beyond this, researchers are still learning more about the purpose of sleep, but one thing’s for sure: we need it.

CaptureFor the client, we can look to recent research on sleep and motor learning.  In one study, researchers compared the brain scans of participants who slept after learning a simple finger-tapping exercise with those who performed the task without sleeping afterward.  Those who slept performed the exercise more quickly and accurately, and all participants had observable changes in brain structure on the following day.  As important as Practice, Practice, Practice! may be for learning (or relearning) an oral motor skill, if a client neglects to get a good night’s sleep after a session or a day of practice, their brain may not hold onto the skill as firmly as it might.

So, what can you do to get more sleep?  While working on that, what could you recommend to your clients?



Association for Psychological Science (2010, December 17). Sleep makes your memories stronger, and helps with creativity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 5, 2013, from­/releases/2010/11/101113165441.htm

Cirelli C, Tononi G (2008) Is sleep essential? PLoS Biol 6(8): e216. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0060216 Retreived from

Brown University (2013, August 20). How sleep helps brain learn motor task. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 5, 2013, from­/releases/2013/08/130820185657.htm#!

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