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Study Finds Taking A Nap Is As Effective As Receiving Rewards In Boosting Learning

Study Finds Taking A Nap Is As Effective As Receiving Rewards In Boosting Learning

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Last Updated on August 12, 2019

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory and brain power:

1. Nuts

The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

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2. Blueberries

Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

3. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

4. Broccoli

While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

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Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

6. Soy

Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

7. Dark Chocolate

When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate: 15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

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Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

9. Foods Rich in Zinc

Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

10. Gingko Biloba

This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

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However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

11. Green and Black Tea

Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

Find out more about green tea here: 11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

12. Sage and Rosemary

Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

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Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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