A recent study suggests that everyone who is learning or training should be taking more naps.
The study from the University of Geneva, found that a nap is as good as gold when it comes to learning and retention. Learning is often boosted with rewards and incentives. But if the learner takes a nap after being bribed with a reward or learning a skill, the brain uses that time to turn it into a long-term memory.
Sleeping enough is essential to the learning progress
What is most important is the huge impact that sleep can have on a person’s achievement. Not getting enough sleep means that the brain does not have time to process, recharge and reset. This means that the learning process can become much more laborious than it needs to be.
How the study worked
In the study, 31 volunteers were assigned to one of two groups. Some were assigned to a sleep group. Others were assigned to an ‘awake’ group. The researchers showed all of the participant’s eight pairs of pictures. Researchers told them that if the participants could remember at least four of the pairs, they would receive a reward. The researchers then scanned the brains of all the participants while they were looking at the pictures.
Afterwards, the participants were either allowed to rest or sleep, depending on the group they had been assigned. The break lasted for a full 90 minutes. When the break was over, the participants were then tested on how confident they were about remembering the pictures.
Three months later, the participants took part in a pop quiz featuring the same pictures. The results of the test were that both groups performed well over all. But the sleep group did significantly better than the group that just took a break. They were able to remember more pictures after three months than the other group did.
The science behind it
Researchers say that this all has to do with the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that helps you form memories. Researchers already understood that sleep is integral for helping the hippocampus function properly. But what they didn’t know was that sleep could help the brain choose which information to remember when rewards were involved.
According to the researchers, it makes sense that the brain would prioritize some information over others.
This study was thought to provide some basis to the sleep-learning trend. There are groups of people who are purchasing sleep-learning playlists in attempts to learn foreign languages or other things in their sleep. The trend promises productivity in your sleep and was recently featured on GearHeads Magazine. But while some neurologists say that it is too good to be true, the University of Geneva is not the only study to examine the effects of sleep on learning.
What did other studies say?
In another new study, produced by Brown University, two different groups of subjects were also shown images, this time with patterns of lines. One group was then sent away to take a nap. Another stayed awake. This study also found that those who went to sleep could remember patterns better.
Masako Tamaki, one of the Brown University researchers says this is because the brain does not just switch off when you go to sleep. It uses the time to reset.
Unfortunately for those attempting to learn German in their sleep, the brain needs peace to do its best work. This means that interrupting it with noise can damage your sleep cycle. Without this peace, you might wake up tired and not have learned anything.
But one thing studies do show is that kindergarten teachers have got it just right. There is nothing in the world like nap time.
Featured photo credit: nito via shutterstock.com