Tag Archives: Memory

The Power of Power Naps

A student napping in a library. Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Image by: umjanedoan

A student napping in a library. Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Image by: umjanedoan

Many of us already know how lack of sleep can be detrimental, whether it be from personal experience or simply because we have been taught that sleep deprivation is bad for our health. Unfortunately, due to school, work, or other reasons, some people simply cannot afford a good eight hours of sleep every night; but that does not necessarily mean that they cannot be healthy! The key to survive short nights of sleep lies in the power of ‘power naps’. A short nap, ranging anywhere from 25 minutes to an hour, can have extraordinary benefits in terms of health and memory, even if someone is sleep deprived.

As shown in a recent study conducted by a group of neuropsychologists at Saarland University in Germany, a power nap of 45 to 60 minutes can significantly improve learning and memory. Indeed, the researchers asked participants to remember single words and pairs of words (e.g., milk-taxi); half of these participants were then allowed to take a short nap after the learning phase, while the other half watched a DVD. Surprisingly, compared to the DVD group, the ‘nap’ group performed significantly better when recalling the word pairs. This can be explained by the fact that memories are consolidated, or strengthened, when we sleep (either over night or during daytime napping), and that stronger or efficient consolidation leads to better chance of recall later on.    

Memory performance was assessed by recall of words or word pairs. Source: Flickr Creative Commons Image by: Chris Blakeley

Memory performance was assessed by recall of words or word pairs.
Source: Flickr Creative Commons Image by: Chris Blakeley

Adding to the benefits of enhancing learning and memory, Dr. Faraut from the Université Paris Descartes-Sorbonne in Paris, France, found that even just a 30-minute power nap is enough to counter the negative effects of a poor night of sleep. Indeed, in their recently published study, suggests that napping can help the immune system as well as the neuroendocrine system to recuperate from lack of sleep. The proper functioning of these systems are crucial for humans in order to protect us from diseases, regulate our digestive and respiratory systems, as well as to relieve stress.

Bearing the benefits of power naps in mind, students pulling ‘all-nighers’, along with other sleep-deprived individuals, should definitely consider spending some time napping here and there. This would allow their brains to consolidate newly formed memories as well as allowing their bodies to counter the damage done by lack of sleep.

This short video offers a quick summary of the benefits behind power naps, take a look!

This video was uploaded to Youtube by AsapSCIENCE


Sara Larivière

Thinking of pulling an all-nighter? You may want to think twice!

We all had one of those stressful nights with exams and had to pull all-nighters. However, will it actually help you get an A? Recent studies show that it may be more beneficial for students to sleep on time rather than staying up all night. Lack of sleep have shown to affect both memory retention and health.

all-nighter Source: flickr

All-nighter.  Photo Credit: Edward Langley. Source: Flickr

Firstly, sleep and memory are interconnected. Sleep is essential to turn short-term memory into long term memory. This is known as memory consolidation. With inefficient amounts of sleep, this process cannot be completely successful. Furthermore, hippocampus is where all the memory is stored in the brain. This is where it can be greatly affected by lack of sleep. Research suggests that important points throughout the day are recycled through the brain specifically in the hippocampus.

Hippocampus Source: Flickr

Hippocampus.  Photo Credit: Steve.Milway. Source: Flickr

One of the research models about memory formation is the O’Donnell and Sejnowski’s model. Their model suggests that memory formation occurs during the dreaming stage. During this stage the hippocampus organizes memory by retaining the important information from the ones you don’t need.

Secondly, sleep deprivation is a serious factor that can affect one’s health. It affects millions of people in North America. It can be caused by stress and anxiety. There has been a link found between sleep deprivation and cell damage. Research has found damaged cells in the liver, small intestine and the lungs.  They found that lack of sleep causes cell damage showing that there is a direct link between sleep and health. However, further study shows that recovering from lack of sleep restored those damaged cells. This shows that a consistent sleeping schedule is vital for a healthy body and memory.

In addition, lack of sleep can cause the memory to recall information inaccurately known as memory distortion. Kimberly Fen, an MSU associate professor of psychology mentions that memory distortion is greatly increased during sleep deprivation. Many students do not get enough sleep every day and are sleep deprived throughout the weeks. This makes it more likely for them to have memory distortion and can worsen as they age.

Furthermore, in another research study led by Brigham and Women’s Hospital, they found that women who sleep five hours or less per day experience a more distorted memory later in their life. They even found that a greater fluctuation in the amount of sleep can seriously affect the memory. Getting a regular amount of sleep will prevent memory distortion.

Sleep studies Source: Flickr

Sleep studies.  Photo Credit: Chief Jimbo. Source: Flickr

Looking back at this, it is not worth the risk of pulling an all-nighter to hopefully ace the test. We must look past just the test and focus on our health. Sleep deprivation has been linked to cell damage that ultimately affects our health. Just hit the hay rather than staring at a book the whole night.

-Manpreet Takhi