Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Brain & Nervous System Health Center

Font Size

Got a Complex Task? Study, Sleep on It

Sleep Enhances Learning of Complex Skills
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 20, 2008 -- If you've just learned a complex skill, here's how to do it better: Get a good night's sleep.

Practice may make perfect, but not if you haven't slept, suggest studies by Howard Nusbaum, PhD, David Margoliash, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Chicago.

Researchers have shown that sleep improves performance of some simple tasks, such as recall of memorized lists. But until now, sleep's role in more complex learning hasn't been clear.

Nusbaum, Margoliash, and colleagues studied the issue by teaching college students to play a first-person shooter video game called Unreal Tournament 2003. Only students who had never played more than 10 such games were allowed to participate. Most of the students in the study were female, 163 out of 207 participants.

First-person shooter games are complex. They require learning to use both hands to manipulate a computer keyboard and mouse to move through a virtual world in which they have to kill -- and avoid being killed by -- a variety of "bots." Players have to adjust to rapidly changing situations.

The basic study design was to see how well the students could play a second first-person shooter game -- Quake 3 -- after learning to play Unreal Tournament.

After being tested on their initial Quake 3 skills and then being trained to play Unreal Tournament, the students were divided into groups:

  • The "AM control" and "PM control" groups received training in the morning or evening and immediate testing on Quake 3.
  • The "12-hour wake" group received training in the morning but were tested on Quake 3 that evening, 12 hours later, without any sleep in the interim.
  • The "12-hour sleep" group received training in the evening but were tested the next morning, 12 hours later, after getting a night's sleep.
  • The "24-hour AM" and "24-hour PM" groups received training in the morning or in the evening and returned for testing 24 hours later.

Predictably, the "control" students played Quake better after learning the skills needed to play Unreal Tournament, regardless of whether they learned to play in the evening or in the morning. Time of day had no effect on learning this complex task.

Today on WebMD

nerve damage
Learn how this disease affects the nervous system.
senior woman with lost expression
Know the early warning signs.
woman in art gallery
Tips to stay smart, sharp, and focused.
medical marijuana plant
What is it used for?
senior man
boy hits soccer ball with head
red and white swirl
marijuana plant
brain illustration stroke
nerve damage
Alzheimers Overview
Graphic of number filled head and dna double helix