Study While You Sleep

Sleeping helps brain relearn and consolidate new information

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Did you think sleep was all about getting rest? Well, think again. Your brain keeps busy at night too.

Recent sleep research has shown that learned information is often replayed during sleep. This reactivation process seems to consolidate and stabilize recently learned material. 

"You need enough sleep the night before to taking a test."

Lead author Michael Scullin, a doctoral candidate in the Behavior, Brain and Cognition program at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. reports their findings demonstrate the importance of sleep to classroom performance. Scullin disclosed the most intriguing finding of the study was that sleep, relative to an equal-length awake time, benefits performance on higher level thinking, without affecting performance on the basic, trained problems.

102 university undergraduates who had never taken an economics course were enrolled in the study. In the morning or evening they completed an introductory, virtual lecture that trained them on concepts and problems related to supply and demand microeconomics.

Then, the students were tested in four different groups: the first group was tested immediately after the lecture, the second group was tested after 12 hours which included time for sleep, the third group was tested 12 hours after the lecture but didn't get any sleep, and the fourth group was tested after one week.

The test included basic problems that they had been trained to solve, as well as more difficult problems which required them to assimilate their knowledge of supply and demand and apply it to different but related problems.

Results show that the performance of the group that was tested after 12 hours which included sleep was superior especially in the assimilative process problems. Conversely, the group that was tested 12 hours after without any sleep performed much worse.

The findings were presented at SLEEP 2011, the 25th Anniversary Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC (APSS). 

Research presented at academic meetings is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 15, 2011
Last Updated:
June 25, 2011