Sleeping Soundly Provides Memory Boost

Posted on July 14, 2008

Need to learn something? Try an intense period of studying followed by a good night's sleep. The BBC reports that a study has confirmed that sleep does indeed help with memory. The study found that sleep appears to help strengthen nerve connections in the brain.

The researchers studied a group of 32 volunteers who were taught a new skill or shown images they would later have to remember.

The skill tasks included trying to follow a moving dot on a computer screen using a joy stick.

One group of participants was then allowed to sleep normally for eight hours, while others were deprived of sleep or only permitted a nap.

The next day they were asked to repeat the tasks or recall the images while their brains were scanned using a technique known as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Those who had slept properly performed better, and this was reflected in their brain activity.

Lead researcher Dr Sophie Schwartz said: "Our results revealed that a period of sleep following a new experience can consolidate and improve subsequent effects of learning from the experience.

It isn't a new idea that sleeping can help with retention but it is interesting to have a scientific study confirm this widely held belief. Sleeping appears to be a great way to help the brain process new information. The scientists were not sure exactly how much sleep was needed for the best results but it seems pretty obvious that a constant lack of sleep can become very disruptive both cognitively and physically.

More from Science Space & Robots