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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

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Daytime Nap May Boost Memory

Napping May Give the Brain a Chance to Reinforce New Memories, Sleep Experts Say
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 1, 2008 -- Take a daytime nap, and you might wake up with a sharper memory. That's what happened in a new napping study that involved 33 undergraduate students.

First, the students took three different tests of their short-term memory.

In one test, they had to learn and remember pairs of unrelated words, such as "alligator" and "cigar." In another test, they had to navigate and remember a maze shown on a computer screen. And in the last test, the students had to copy a complex drawing onto a sheet of paper, and then sketch the drawing from memory.

Next, half of the students napped for about 45 minutes, while other students watched TV. Finally, all of the students repeated the three memory tests

Napping boosted scores on the word-pair test, but not the other two tests.

A closer look at the test scores shows that on all three tests, people with the highest scores before napping were the ones with the biggest gains in their post-nap test scores. So if they didn't really absorb information before their nap, naps didn't magically make the information sink in.

Matthew Tucker, PhD, and William Fishbein, PhD, report their findings in today's edition of Sleep. Tucker and Fishbein work in the psychology department of the City College of the City University of New York.

(What do you think of folks "napping" at work? Do you ever take naps? Talk about it on WebMD's Health Cafe message board.)

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