Naps seem to lead to a five-fold improvement in memory functions, emphasizing information retrieval as key factor to learning success.
Scientists highlighted the positive effect of naps lasting between 45 and 60 minutes, with the ability to improve memory five-fold.
“Wherever people are in a learning environment, we should think seriously about the positive effects of sleep,” said study coordinator Axel Mecklinger, professor of Saarland University in Germany.
In the study, the participants watched DVDs and had significantly worse results than those participants who took naps when asked to remember certain word pairs such as milk-taxi.
To avoid the possibility participants remembered the word pairs on the basis of familiarity of learned things, researchers asked participants to learn 120 word pairs that made no sense in addition to the 90 individual words.
“Such a pair of words, for example, ‘Milk Taxi’. A familiarity feeling good is in the case, nothing at all, when the subjects were asked to recall the words because it does not make sense, they have never heard the word combination before. So you have to rely on the specific memory for each episode in the hippocampus,” explains Axel Mecklinger the method.
Scientists focused on the role of hippocampus, the region of the brain where memories are stored and “consolidated”, allowing previously learned information to be transferred into long-term storage.
In their study, researchers were careful to a particular type of brain activity known as “sleep spindles”, responsible for memory consolidation during sleep, according to researcher Sara Studte.
A sleep spindle is a short burst of oscillations in electroencephalogram (EEG), and the stronger a person’s memory of something, the greater the number of sleep spindles showing in a EEG.
A concentrated period of learning followed by a short relaxing sleep is all that is needed to enhance information recall, the study concluded.
The findings were published in journal Neurobiology in Learning and Memory.