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EEG readings of stage 2 sleep show short bursts that sleep scientists have named Spindles (because of how they look on the EEG record.) Each Spindle lasts about a second, and there may be as many as a thousand in each person’s brain every night.
Now if you want to look at the effect of sleep on learning, three major areas of inquiry come to mind: This model does not discriminate between declarative memory and procedural memory.
Sleepy people are less vigilant; they have less mental energy and capacity for attention; they tend to be in a poor mood. Recall shares mental mechanisms with other cognitive and physical skills.
If your motor performance declines when sleepy, it is reasonable that your recall should also.
During sleep the brain turns recently acquired memories into long term memories. This appears to be one of the main biological functions of sleep.
A breakdown of learning can be Acquisition, Consolidation, and Recall.
Acquisition and Recall occur during waking (and happen better when the person is not sleepy.) Consolidation may happen to some extent during waking, but light sleep (stage 2) is the go-to place for consolidation of memories, "making sense" of them, and integrating them into long-term memory.
Acquisition refers to the introduction of new information into the brain.
Common sense holds a well-rested person can learn more easily and more thoroughly than a sleepy person. In tests of response time to stimuli, agility, ability to remember new material and to perform things like mental arithmetic, the superiority of the rested brain has been shown again and again.
Well-rested (not sleep- deprived) brains do a bunch of tasks better than sleepy brains.