How Naps Can Help You Learn

New study shows a post-snooze memory boost
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 13, 2011 9:20 AM CDT

(Newser) – If you’re a fan of the afternoon nap, there’s no need to be ashamed—in fact, new research gives you the perfect excuse to stop reading this right now and go grab some midday shuteye. In the study, volunteers who napped for 100 minutes prior to completing a memorization test scored, on average, 20 percentage points higher than those who hadn’t napped. One important note: The test was taken a couple hours after the nap, in order for any post-snooze fuzziness to wear off, LiveScience reports.

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All the volunteers first completed a memorization test before napping, and then again in the evening, regardless of whether they had napped. Researchers found that those who didn’t nap performed about 12% worse on their second test of the day, while those who did nap did about 10% better on their second test. In all, the difference in scores amounted to about 20%. A possible reason for the memory boost? “Sleep spindles,” or short bursts of electrical activity in the brain that occur during nonrapid eye movement sleep. These likely transfer memories from your hippocampus, where memories are made, to your brain’s long-term storage area, thus freeing up your hippocampus for new memories. (Read more sleep stories.)

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