Total Recall: Power Naps Improve Memory


power naps improve memory

New study finds that power naps improve memory. Taking a power nap after a memorization task improved memory performance five times over controls watching a DVD.

Power naps can be heaven, but sometimes it leaves you drowsy and uncomfortable. Earlier research have shown that taking power naps might actually be beneficial, increasing motor learning, boosting memory and enhancing creativity. Now a new study from Saarland University finds that power naps improve memory, increasing performance in associative memory tests.

Power Naps Improve Memory

‘Even a short sleep lasting 45 to 60 minutes produces a five-fold improvement in information retrieval from memory,’ explains Axel Mecklinger, lead researcher.

In this study researchers focused on a brain region called the hippocampus. Here, memories are “consolidated”, meaning information is moved to long-term memory storage. To investigate exactly how this is accomplished researchers analyzed a special type of brain activity called sleep spindles. Sleep spindles are a rapid series of peaks on an EEG believed to play an important role in memory consolidation during sleep.

The study design involved participants memorizing 90 single words and 120 word pairs. Word pairs consisted of unrelated words like milk-taxi, this unusual word-combinations prevented people from remembering words because of familiarity. After memorization the study participates either watched a DVD or took a nap ranging between 45-60 min.

The subsequent memory test revealed that the people taking power naps had better hippocampus dependent associative memory compared to the DVD group. The performance on item memory, not dependent on the hippocampus, was not significantly different between groups. Researchers also found that a higher density of EEG spindles during sleep was associated with better memory recall both before and after sleeping.