Can a Midday Nap Make You Smarter?
Study Shows Adults Who Nap Learn Better, Perform Better
WebMD News Archive
Naps and Learning: Implications continued...
In previous research, Walker and others found that fact-based memories are
stored temporarily in the brain's hippocampus, then sent to the area known as
the prefrontal cortex -- which he suspects has more storage space.
''Perhaps what happens is that the hippocampus is actually the short-term
way station for memory in the brain," Walker tells WebMD. The hippocampus is
good at getting hold of information, but at some point needs to ''download” the
information to the pre-frontal cortex, he says.
The nap before learning may help clear out the hippocampus and send the data
on to the prefrontal cortex, allowing new information to soak in, Walker
''What is new and exciting about this study is, he's shown that sleep, in
addition to helping the memory consolidation process, also primes the brain to
learn new information," says Jessica Payne, PhD, an assistant professor of
psychology at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, who has also researched
''Memory really has three stages,'' she says. They are:
- Initial memory encoding, after you learn something new
- Memory storage or consolidation
- Memory retrieval
Most of the sleep research has focused on the consolidation process, she
says, although the new study looks at how sleep affects the initial
The new study findings, Payne says, may be of particular help for aging
people who feel their memories are failing. A brief midday nap may help them
learn and remember later in the day, she says.
Walker and Payne concede that a 90-minute nap in the middle of a workday
isn't feasible for many people. But it may turn out that briefer naps would
provide the same, or similar benefits, Payne says.