You have probably heard about many of the reasons to get a good night's sleep. Since the 1960s, researchers have noted the important connection between sleep and memory. In one classic experiment conducted in 1994, researchers found that depriving participants of sleep impaired their ability to improve performance on a line identification task.
In addition to aiding in memory, sleep also plays and essential role in learning new information. In one study, researchers found that depriving students of sleep after learning a new skill significantly decreased memory of that skill up to three days later.
Researchers have found, however, that sleep's influence on procedural memory is much stronger than it is for declarative memory. Procedural memories are those that involve motor and perceptual skills, while declarative memories are those that involve the memorization of facts.
"If you're going to be tested on 72 irregular French verbs tomorrow, you might as well stay up late and cram," explained Robert Stickgold, a psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School, in an article published in the APA's Monitor on Psychology. "But if they're going to throw a curveball at you and ask you to explain the differences between the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution, you're better off having gotten some sleep."