A new study from the prestigious Harvard Medical School has found that napping and dreaming can markedly improve memory. The investigation took 99 participants and asked them to work their way through a computer maze. After the exercise was completed, half of the participants were allowed to nap for 90 minutes, while the other half stayed awake and were kept stimulated. Following a three hour period, both groups performed the same activity, and it was found that the nap group were more successful second time around.
Interestingly, the participants in the nap group who reached a dream state while asleep performed strongest of all.
The researchers claim that the brain works through a process during sleep that filters recently learned information in terms of how useful it is, helping someone to quickly recall information when needed.
Regularly napping is generally considered to have a negative effect on overall sleep quality, as the body is ‘recharged’ to stay awake later into the evening, resulting in a shorter time in bed during the night and conditioning to sleep during the following day. However, the Harvard study may lead to a reassessment of napping as a memory and learning aid. Indeed the practice of ‘power napping’ – short, timed sleeps scheduled during an otherwise busy day - has long been used in the worlds of business and academia.
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