Friday 21 July 2017

Power naps can help boost memory ahead of Leaving Cert exams

Catching some Zzzs for between 45 minutes and one hour can help the brain’s ability to retain information during subsequent study sessions.
Catching some Zzzs for between 45 minutes and one hour can help the brain’s ability to retain information during subsequent study sessions.
Patricia Murphy

Patricia Murphy

Worried students shouldn’t feel guilty about inserting the odd power nap into their busy study regime as new research has shown bursts of sleep can help boost memory.

Catching some Zzzs for between 45 minutes and one hour can help the brain’s ability to retain information during subsequent study sessions.

Scientists in the survey asked respondents to remember 90 single words and 120 word pairs such as ‘cow and sky’.

Half of the subjects watched a DVD while the other half slept for between 45 and 60 minutes. They were then retested.

Lead researcher Professor Axel Mecklinger: “Even a short sleep lasting 45 to 60 minutes produces a five-fold improvement in information retrieval from memory.

“The control group, whose members watched DVDs while the other group when it came to remembering the word pairs.

“The memory performance of the participants who had a power nap was just as good as it was before sleeping, that is immediately after completing the learning phase.

“Strictly speaking memory performance did not improve in the nap group relative to the levels measured immediately after the learning phase but they did remain constant.”

The study focused on a particular part of the brain, the hippocampus, where memories are converted from short term to long term memories.

The subjects were asked to recall the word pairs but also to remember the preceding pair.

Graduate biologist Sara Studte said:  “We examined a particular type of brain activity known as ‘sleep spindle’ which play an important role in memory consolidation during sleep.

“A sleep spindle is a short burst of rapid oscillations in the electroencephalogram. We suspect certain types of memory content, particularly information that was previously tagged is preferentially consolidated during this type of brain activity,” she said.

Professor Mecklinger said fitting in sleep into your regime could ultimately help your exam results.

“A short nap at the office or in school is enough to significantly improve learning success. Wherever people are in a learning environment we should think seriously about the positive effects of sleep,” he said.

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