Being a college student, I rarely ever feel tired, or overworked, or like I am struggling to remember things that “just won’t stick”. Did I say rarely ever? I meant always. Fortunately, Traci Pederson just put out this new article about the benefits of napping. Pederson states that taking a short nap can actually help retain new information.
Pederson conducted a study where participants were asked to memorize 90 single words, and 120 meaningless word pairs. The word pairs, like “milk” and “taxi”, were chose to eliminate familiarity effects. After the participants were exposed to the words, half of the participants watched DVDs, while the other half took a nap. The participants that were able to sleep performed significantly better than those who watched the DVDs.
The researchers looked specifically at sleep spindles. Sleep spindles are a specific type of brain activity that play a huge part in memory consolidation while you are asleep. Essentially, the more sleep spindles that occur while you sleep, the more information you will be able to recall.
Pederson concludes, “A short nap at the office or in school is enough to significantly improve learning success. Wherever people are in a learning environment, we should think seriously about the positive effects of sleep.”The company The Huffington Post seems to have accepted Pederson’s conclusions because they have “napquest” rooms, where you will find this:
This bed costs $8,000, but it is a small price to pay for better memory recall! (Maybe I’m biased because I want these at UMW).
Let’s get back into the cognitive aspect of memory and sleep. John Hamilton talks about a study where the brain activity of rats were observed. Researchers noted that certain areas of the brain were activated when the rats were in a certain location. Now here comes the awesome part; when the rats went to sleep, those areas of the brain were lit up in the same order. This hints at the idea that during sleep, memories are perhaps re-experienced when they are consolidated. When the memories are consolidated, it’s almost like they are being reviewed; the brain activates the same pattern of neural firing, thus enhancing learning
So the next time you are studying away and are getting tired, take a nap! You will feel better and your memory will remember to thank you.