Napping Before a Test is Like Having a Clean Inbox

Are you the type of person who clears out his/her inbox first thing each morning?  It’s a practice that allows you to start the day fresh.  It turns out that sleeping .. even napping .. may serve the same purpose.  And, without the proper amount of sleep, we learn less efficiently.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley tested 44 volunteers — 27 women and 17 men.  First, the volunteers were given a task in which they had to memorize 100 names and faces. Then they were tested for how well they recalled the face-name matches.

Next, the researchers tucked half of the volunteers in for a nap between 2 p.m. and 3:40 p.m. The scientists measured the napping volunteers’ brain waves as they slept. The other group of participants stayed awake and did daily activities as they normally would. At 6 p.m., both groups memorized another set of 100 faces and names and were tested on their memory. (The experiment was set up so nappers had more than an hour to shake off any remaining fuzziness before the test.)

Volunteers who took a 100-minute nap before launching into the evening memorization task scored an average of 20 percentage points higher on the memory test compared with people who did the memorization without snoozing first.

Researchers involved in the study say while napping, memories of the volunteers were categorized and moved into “long term storage”, which made room for new memories.