Sleep On It
Now that the school season's gearing up, here's some information any student
can use: you may have the most success remembering what you've learned if you
go to sleep afterwards.
In the research, scientists gave two lists of paired words (the words were
paired randomly, and didn't sound alike) to 48 men and women and asked them
to memorize the words. The participants were then put in four groups-one memorized
the words in the evening and were tested in the morning; one memorized the words
in the morning and were tested in the evening; one group memorized in the evening
but also had to perform another task, and then they were tested in the morning;
and one group memorized in the morning, was given another task, and was tested
in the evening.
Those who were tested in the morning after memorizing the lists without performing
another task had the highest score-94 percent. The people who didn't have to
perform another task and took their test in the evening scored 82 percent.
The people who had an additional task and took their test in the evening, before
sleeping, scored only 32 percent, but those who had an additional task but were
able to sleep before taking their test scored 76 percent.
Clearly, it was the sleep that made the big difference between the scores of
people who had to perform an additional task beyond memorizing the word pairs.
The researchers stress that sleep is not simply a passive state, but rather
a time when the memory process continues to be active.
Current Biology, 11 July 2006