Catching a few z's during the middle of the day may improve your memory, a study by the University of California at Berkeley found.
A power nap indeed works to recharge the brain, improving memory, according
to findings of a study on sleep and midday
napping by researchers from the University
of California at Berkeley.
Led by study author Matthew Walker, the team of scientists compared the results
of memory tests after a group of test subjects took a 100-minute nap versus
those who did not.
The findings were announced at the annual meeting of the American
Association of the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San
The results, though preliminary, showed the group that powered down for a
spell during the afternoon did better on the memory test, which was designed to
stimulate the hippocampus, a part of the brain thought to be linked to memory
function. Walker compared napping
to clearing your e-mail inbox or rebooting a computer.
"It's as though the email inbox in your hippocampus is full and, until
you sleep and clear out those fact emails, you're not going to receive any more
mail," he said in a report
by British newspaper The
Guardian. "It's just going to bounce until you sleep and move it into another
The study found of the 39 students who participated, the group of 20 that
took the nap performed better on the memory test. The exercise consisted of
matching pictures of faces to names. Walker
said those students without a break fared about 10 percent worse than students
who had taken the 100-minute nap. "This is further evidence that sleep
plays a critical role in the processing of memories. It provides more evidence
that it's not just important to sleep after learning, but you need it before
learning to prepare the brain for laying down information," he said.
Walker also suggested humans are
not biologically constructed to use their brains all day long and require a
break so the brain can improve absorption of information. "We've all had that
experience of being in meetings after lunch with people who are clearly
drifting off," medical news site Health.com reported
him as saying. "It's not their fault.
It's their biology."
Also at the AAAS conference, The National Sleep Foundation reported that
Americans get an average of 6.5 hours of sleep on weeknights, though 8 hours
are recommended. Both men and women have decreased sleep; 67 percent of women
report having poor sleep at least three nights a week. New studies show
that two hallmarks of older adulthood-decreased sleep and cognitive decline-may
be related. Moreover, sleep interventions can help reduce the decline in this
age group, the foundation said.