Power naps, quick sleeps in the middle of the day, are a wonderful thing. They can help make up for a bad night’s sleep the night before, relieve stress, improve productivity later in the day, and, according to new research, can also help boost your memory dramatically.
Researchers at Saarland University in Germany tested the memory of 41 volunteers who had been asked to remember specific words and word pairs. Then, half of the participants took an hourlong nap while the others watched a DVD. Afterward, they were retested for their memory of the words.
In the end, the study found that the memory of the subjects who napped was five times better than those who didn’t. The researchers were also surprised to find that the napping subjects’ memory was as good after the nap as it was before. That couldn’t be said for the subjects who watched DVDs.
In an effort to explain the findings, the scientists examined brain activity to determine how naps seemed to improve memory. The hippocampus — a brain region known to play a role in memory consolidation — transfers learned information into memory storage after the information is learned. Electroencephalogram (EEG) tests revealed that the brain’s activity during sleep seems to supercharge the hippocampus’s ability to consolidate information.
The researchers still don’t know, however, why some memories are strengthened during a short nap while others aren’t.