Feb 11, 2007

to sleep, perchance to learn

Getting your beauty rest doesn't just help you remember what you've already learned. If new research holds up, it might help you remember new things, too.
Seung-Schik Yoo at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, US, and colleagues asked 14 people to avoid sleeping one night by playing board games and checking email in the lab. The participants stayed awake until the next evening, when they had to view a sequence of 150 images – as their brains were scanned – before going home to sleep.

After two good nights’ rest, the participants returned to the lab thinking they would simply have to sign some papers. But researchers surprised them with a pop quiz: The subjects had to pick out the 150 images they had seen before from a series of 225 pictures.

They correctly identified 74% of the previously viewed images, on average. By comparison, another group who had a proper night’s rest before viewing the 150 images at the start of the experiment correctly identified 86% of these pictures in the pop quiz.
The sample is pretty small, so the findings are highly tentative. Still, it would square with well-established evidence that if you don't snooze, you lose.

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