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When Memory Fades


I was determined to learn a new language, even if I was well past the age of a typical college student. But I found that I struggled retaining many pieces of information—from simple vocabulary to complex verb conjugations. My professor noticed my difficulty and gave me a simple suggestion, “Study right before bed,” he said. “Your brain functions well while you’re sleeping.”

After years of pulling all-nighters as a graduate student, I found this concept difficult to believe. But a recent sleep study published by Notre Dame found that studying before sleep had some significant memory benefits. The study tested college students who were divided into two groups—those who were given information to memorize at 9 am, followed by 10 hours of wakefulness; and those who were given information to memorize at 9 pm, followed by 10 hours of sleep. Those who studied the information and went right to sleep could recall that information 10 hours later and were even able to process complex information and processes while they slept. Those who studied that information during the daytime were less able to recall even simple formulas and vocabulary.

Could it be true? Could it be possible…that I just needed to study and then sleep? I could hear mothers across the country rejoicing…college students celebrating.  I thought I owed it to my professor to try it.

I started going through my language materials for about 30 minutes before bedtime. The plan was working! I began waking with the vocabulary still intact. I even conjugated a couple of verbs over breakfast.

If this could work for my vocabulary, what would happen if I applied this same technique to memorizing and understanding Scripture? If I filled my heart and mind with the truth of God’s Word—even just a snippet—could my mind process that information overnight so that I woke with a clearer understanding of who I was in Christ?

I began turning off the television news and instead reading a bit of good news from the Bible for several minutes before my head hit the pillow. While I wasn’t tasked with the challenge of being tested on the information when I woke, I did find that I could remember the verses and the context when I opened my eyes the next day. And, like the study confirmed, there have been several times when a difficult concept seemed to make a little more sense when I awoke than it did when I closed my eyes for the night. Whether that’s the power of our God-created human brain or the power of the Holy Spirit, the result is the same. The truth of God is written on my heart and mind in a way that I can never forget.

I also do my best to fill the minds of my children and hubby before drifting off to sleep. If they go to bed with encouraging prayers and thoughts of being loved, maybe that will help them wake well the next day? My professor was onto something.

Just like I’ve memorized the vocabulary to better understand a foreign language, the scripture I’ve memorized has given me the ability to understand God’s promises at a deeper level. When I’ve been in a tough situation, God has spoken to me by bringing that scripture to mind. Each time that happens, I am so grateful for the time I have spent reading and rereading his word, committing his truths to memory.   

It is one of the most powerful tools we can give ourselves—God’s word, his precious promises, written on our hearts and cemented in our minds. With that tool, we have given him a gateway to bring us comfort and to strengthen our souls.

And that’s worth remembering, even if I must repeat it over and over again as my head hits the pillow. Sleep well, my friend.

This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.

Hebrews 10:16

Taking Easter Egg Hunts a Little Too Far

Comments 2

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Guest - Esther Pottoore on Tuesday, 29 August 2017 22:10

Love it! Will try!

Love it! Will try!
Julie Miller (website) on Wednesday, 30 August 2017 12:58


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    Sally Cranham is a singer and writer from the UK. She uses biblical narrative and her own experience to write deeply into the heart of the human condition. She currently works as a volunteer for SourceMN as their Arts Outreach Coordinator and has lived as a Residential Volunteer at Source’s anti-trafficking transitional annex alongside women who have come out of the life of prostitution.
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