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Naps boost learning power

23rd February 2010

Lengthy afternoon naps may have a very beneficial effect upon the brain, according to a recent US study.

Sleeping

Study author Matthew Walker, an assistant professor at the University of California at Berkeley, said that sleep was not just for the body, but that it was very much for the brain as well.

Jessica Payne, an assistant professor at the University of Notre Dame, said that the finding filled in gaps about why sleep was important, and that the results were especially relevant for students trying to achieve high marks and people who find they lose memory as they age.

For the purposes of the study, scientists required 39 young adults to take two memory exercises over the course of the day.

The memory exercise used faces and names as a basis for measuring memory efficiency.

Just over half the study participants were allowed to take a nap after the first exercise, while the other 19 were not.

The nap was fairly long, at just over one and a half hours.

The researchers recorded a 10% lapse in people who stayed awake and then performed the memory test.

Researchers believe that people's ability to learn usually also declines by 10% between the hours of 12:00 pm and 6:00 pm.

The people who napped were also able to reverse this decline, meaning that their ability to remember the names and faces from the memory exercise was about 20% better than that of the control group.

Walker said that the study provided further evidence that sleep played a critical role in the processing of memory, and that people needed to get adequate sleep before learning something.

He said that the brain's ability to soak things up was not always stable, and that his team believed the brain needed periods of non-dreaming sleep in order to restore its learning capacity.


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