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Sleep on it – and dream about it – to remember it

Sun, 25th Apr 2010

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Have you ever found that the advice to “sleep on it” turns out to be true, whether it's solving a problem or trying to learn something? We've known for some time that sleep helps us to remember things, by helping the brain to file away and strengthen memories. Now new research from Erin Wamsley at Harvard Medical School, published in the journal Current Biology, provides more evidence that the best way to remember something is, indeed, to sleep on it – and, more importantly, to dream about it.

Wamsley and her team asked 99 volunteers to memorise the layout of a complicated computer-based maze. Then they were tested to see if they could get to a specific place in the maze after being dropped at a random starting point.  Five hours later, the volunteers were tested again. But in the intervening time, some of them had been to sleep while some of them had stayed awake.

A couple of guys sleeping near the Kiosko Alfonso in A Coruña (Galicia, España.)The scientists found that people who had an hour and a half shut-eye in between tests managed to get through the maze and average of around 3 minutes faster than the first time, while the people who'd stayed awake only managed to navigate it a mere 26 seconds faster.

As well as seeing whether the volunteers had had a cheeky nap, Wamsley also asked the nappers whether they dreamed about the maze. She found that people who had dreamed about doing the task during their nap improved in the second test far more than people who didn't. So it suggests that dreaming is a powerful form of mental 'rehearsal' for a task.

In Wamsley's experiments, her volunteers also had some pretty wacky dreams. For example, when the volunteers described their dreams, they didn’t talk about specific things in the maze, such as certain points or router. But some of them did mention similar but related situations, such as different mazes, or being stuck in a cave.

And , intriguingly, they found that people who found the maze task most difficult were more likely to dream about it. So maybe their brains were more likely to be processing the information about the task – or worrying about the upcoming re-test - while they napped.

It's important to point out that the researchers don't think that the actual dreams themselves improve our memory – they're more like a side effect of the underlying brain 'filing' process that goes on while we sleep. But based on this research, you might draw the conclusion that it's best to study right before you go to sleep. Or, alternatively, this is a brilliant way to justify having a nap after a hard revision session.



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Hello Guys,

I do not know for others but if i do not have proper sleep then a feel tense in next days and even hard to remember any past thing or discussion on that have a good sleep of at least 6-7 hour is necessary.

Mark. Mark Lehman, Wed, 28th Apr 2010

I forgot what I was going to say, no wait, zzzzzzz! that's better. Dreaming helps us to make sense of the days events and helps us store what we have learnt in a way we can retrieve it later. Sleep is very important especially when you are young and there are more things to understand and make sense of. If you are studying, sleep is your best friend. This is why parents should make sure their children have a regular bedtime and this does not stray, even at the weekends. Maybe Neilep, who doesn't sleep much can tell us if his lack of bo-bos means his memory is lacking. Make it Lady, Sat, 1st May 2010

According to me sleep help to remember things.. Specially sleep is more important for students.. If we sleep well then our mind get rest and so it help to remember things.. Fresh mind is more better for remember things..

Briney, Sun, 2nd May 2010

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