90-Minute Shut Eye Boosts Skills

90-Minute Shut Eye Boosts Skills
90-Minute Shut Eye Boosts Skills

A team of scientists are suggesting regular daytime naps might actually boost your health. Their research reveals that memories associated with a reward are preferentially reinforced by sleep. Even a short nap after a period of learning is beneficial.

Lead researcher, Dr Kinga Igloi from the University of Geneva, said: “Rewards may act as a kind of tag, sealing information in the brain during learning.”

During sleep, that information is favorably consolidated over information associated with a low reward, and is transferred to areas of the brain associated with long-term memory, she said, CBS news reported.

“Our findings are relevant for understanding the devastating effects that lack of sleep can have on achievement.”

To arrive at their findings, Igloi and her team examined 31 healthy volunteers.

They were randomly assigned to either a sleep group, or a ‘wake’ group and the sensitivity of both groups to reward was assessed as being equal.

Participants’ brains were scanned while they were trained to remember pairs of pictures.

Eight series of pictures were shown and volunteers were told that remembering pairs in four of them would elicit higher reward.

Following a 90-minute break of either sleep or rest, they were tested on their memory for the pairs and asked to rate how confident they were about giving a correct answer. They were also asked to take part in a surprise test of exactly the same nature three months later.

Both groups’ performance was better for highly rewarded picture pairs, but the sleep group performed better overall.

Researchers noted a striking discovery was that during the surprise test three months later, participants who had slept after learning were selectively better for the highly rewarded pairs and were also more confident of achieving a correct answer during the memory tests.

MRI scans revealed that the sleep group experienced greater activity of the hippocampus, a small area of the brain critical for forming memories.

This was linked to a higher number of bursts of brain activity called slow spindles.

Igloi said: “We already knew that sleep helps strengthen memories, but we now also know that it helps select and retain those that have a rewarding value.”

The findings will be published in the journal eLife.