Got a Tough Task? Nap May Help
Task-Related Dreams During Naps May Make Difficult Projects Easier, Study Finds
WebMD News Archive
April 22, 2010 -- Napping after working on a difficult task may make the job
easier to do upon awakening, according to a new study.
The research, reported in the April 22 issue of Current Biology,
offers evidence that napping might be a good strategy for studying.
Researchers asked 99 participants to sit in front of a computer screen and
try to learn the layout of a three-dimensional maze so that they could find
their way to a landmark, in this case, a tree, five hours later when placed at
a random spot within the virtual space.
Study participants who were allowed to take a nap and also dreamed about the
task showed more improvement in performance in a retest than those who did not
nap or those who napped but did not report dreaming about the maze.
In some cases, people who dreamed simply remembered music associated with
the computer maze.
One participant reported dreams of seeing people at various spots in the
maze, even though the maze they saw before napping had no virtual people or
Another reported dreaming of negotiating bat caves, thinking the caves were
Dreams Linked to Memory
“We think that the dreams are a marker that the brain is working on the same
problem at many levels,” researcher Robert Stickgold, PhD, director of the
Center for Sleep and Cognition at Harvard Medical School, says in a news
release. “The dreams might reflect the brain’s attempt to find associations for
the memories that could make them more useful in the future.”
He says that at first researchers “thought that dreaming must reflect the
memory process that’s improving performance” but the content of reported dreams
led to different conclusions.
Apparently, the researchers say, it’s not that the dreams led to better
memory, but that dreaming may be a sign that other, unconscious parts of the
brain are working hard to remember how to get through the maze during the dream
In essence, the dreams are a side effect of the memory process, the study