Best Way to Learn May Be to Study, Sleep on It, Review

Sleep can help us relearn things twice as quickly and three times as effectively
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 26, 2016 3:03 PM CDT
Best Way to Learn May Be to Study, Sleep on It, Review
Katie Myers, 18, naps in a quiet corner of the livestock barn while waiting to compete at the Grant County 4-H Fairgrounds in Marion, Ind., on Tuesday, June 21, 2016.   (Jeff Morehead/The Chronicle-Tribune via AP)

(Newser) – It's well established through previous research that sleep after learning is best for many memory-related tasks, including word lists, mazes, auditory tones, and so on. Sleep seems so vital to recall that some speculate it is directly responsible for, not just supportive of, learning, reports Scientific American. So researchers out of the University of Lyon chose to investigate another aspect of learning—not recall but relearning, where something previously learned has been forgotten and must be re-acquired. Reporting in the journal Psychological Science in August, they wroite that, coupled with practice, "Sleep makes perfect," and that "sleeping after learning is definitely a good strategy, but sleeping between two learning sessions is a better strategy."

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The team tested 40 French-speaking adults tasked with learning 16 Swahili words. Some learned them at night, slept, and relearned them in the morning, while others learned the words in the morning, didn't sleep, and relearned them at night. The group that slept between sessions performed so much better that even those who forgot the most words relearned them faster during their morning session than the least forgetful members of the group relearning the words at night. The results don't clarify which is at play—sleep boosting learning, which helps improve later relearning, or sleep simply allowing for uninterrupted learning processes to speed up relearning—but either way, sleeping between studying seems worth a shot. (This woman only sleeps three hours a night.)

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