A new study published in the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory journal seems to suggest that taking short 45-minute naps will help with memory, while also making you less stressed or moody and more productive.
The research was published a team of scientists from the German Saarland University, which extracted from a test involving 41 students. The participants were asked to memorize 90 single words and 120 pair words – with no little to no association between them – after which they were split into two groups: the first was shown an educative video to help them memorize the words, while those from the second were allowed to sleep for a maximum of 90 minutes.
The students were then given two tests – one that tested associative memory and the other that tested individual item memory – and both were taken twice: once before watching the video or napping, and once again after. The results on the individual item memory worsened between tests for both groups, but surprisingly the power nap group was the only one that remained constant and even scored better when taking the second test on associative memory. The other group performed about five times worse in comparison
Researchers concluded that this had to be attributed to the role that a part of our brain called hippocampus plays in associative memory. The hippocampus is responsible for transforming freshly acquired information to our memory storage, and electroencephalogram tests performed on the napping patients seemed to point out that sleeping enhances this capacity.
“Further studies will be required to unravel by which mechanisms the brain distinguishes between information that is retained or forgotten by sleep, but a short nap at the office or in school is enough to significantly improve learning success” said neuropsychologist Dr. Axel Mecklinger, researcher at Saarland and lead author of the study.
This comes in the context of insufficient sleep being a widespread issue nowadays, with a 2014 Center for Disease Control and Prevention study noting that most American adults sleep an average of 6 hours per night, which translates in roughly 40 percent falling asleep unintentionally at their workplace at least once per month. Only 6 percent of US businesses accommodate their employees with sleeping or napping areas.