Invest in ME Conference 12: First Class in Every Way
OverTheHills wraps up our series of articles on this year's 12th Invest in ME International Conference (IIMEC12) in London with some reflections on her experience as a patient attending the conference for the first time.
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"Napping Can Prime the Brain for Learning"

Discussion in 'Other Health News and Research' started by leelaplay, Mar 2, 2010.

  1. leelaplay

    leelaplay member

    Tom Kindlon posted this to co-cure Feb 23

    [This is not on ME/CFS specifically and is a separate study to the study I
    recently highlighted on banking sleep. But it could also be relevant with
    regard to "sleep hygiene" advice e.g. these were 90 minute sleeps during the
    day. I've appended a more detailed article below - looks like it produces useful, more detailed
    pieces. Tom]


    February 23, 2010

    Vital Signs

    Behavior: Napping Can Prime the Brain for Learning


    Bring back the siesta.

    It turns out that toddlers are not the only ones who do better after an
    afternoon nap. New research has found that young adults who slept for 90
    minutes after lunch raised their learning power, their memory apparently
    primed to absorb new facts.

    Other studies have indicated that sleep helps consolidate memories after
    cramming, but the new study suggests that sleep can actually restore the
    ability to learn.

    The findings, which have not yet been published, were presented Sunday at
    the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of
    Science in San Diego.

    "You need to sleep before learning, to prepare your brain, like a dry
    sponge, to absorb new information," said the lead investigator, Matthew P.
    Walker, an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at the
    University of California, Berkeley.

    The study recruited 39 healthy young adults and divided them into two
    groups. All 39 were asked to learn 100 names and faces at noon, and then to
    learn a different set of names and faces at 6 p.m. But 20 of the volunteers
    who slept for 90 minutes between the two learning sessions improved their
    scores by 10 percent on average after sleeping; the scores of those who
    didn't nap actually dropped by 10 percent.


    Afternoon Nap Might Make You Smarter
    (topic overview)

    Since 2007, Walker and other sleep researchers have established that
    fact-based memories are temporarily stored in the hippocampus before being
    sent to the brain's prefrontal cortex, which may have more storage space.
    "It's as though the e-mail inbox in your hippocampus is full and, until you
    sleep and clear out those fact e-mails, you're not going to receive any more
    mail. It's just going to bounce until you sleep and move it into another
    folder," Walker said. In the latest study, Walker and his team have broken
    new ground in discovering that this memory- refreshing process occurs when
    nappers are engaged in a specific stage of sleep. Electroencephalogram
    tests, which measure electrical activity in the brain, indicated that this
    refreshing of memory capacity is related to Stage 2 non-REM sleep, which
    takes place between deep sleep (non-REM) and the dream state known as Rapid
    Eye Movement (REM). Previously, the purpose of this stage was unclear, but
    the new results offer evidence as to why humans spend at least half their
    sleeping hours in Stage 2, non-REM, Walker said. [1] The latest study, from
    the University of California at Berkeley, suggests that the brain may need
    sleep to process short-term memories, creating "space" for new facts to be
    learned. In their experiment, 39 healthy adults were given a hard learning
    task in the morning - with broadly similar results, before half of them were
    sent for their siesta. When the tests were repeated, the nappers
    outperformed those who had carried on without sleep. Checks on brain
    electrical activity suggested that this process might be happening in a
    sleep phase between deep sleep, and dreaming sleep, called stage 2 non-rapid
    eye movement sleep, when fact-based memories are moved from "temporary
    storage" in the brain's hippocampus to another area called the pre-frontal
    cortex. [2] Why? The part of your brain where short-term information and
    memories are stored is a bit like your email inbox, says the study'''s lead
    author, Matthew P. Walker, the head of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory
    at the University of California, Berkeley. [3] "Sleep is not just for the
    body. It's very much for the brain," said study author Matthew Walker, an
    assistant professor at the University of California at Berkeley. [4]

    "Sleep not only rights the wrong of prolonged wakefulness, but at a
    neurocognitive level, it moves you beyond where you were before you took a
    nap," said lead researcher Dr Matthew Walker, from the University of
    California at Berkeley. [5]

    Later that day, at 6 p.m., participants performed a new round of learning
    exercises. Those who remained awake throughout the day became worse at
    learning. Those who napped did markedly better and actually improved in
    their capacity to learn. These findings reinforce the researchers'
    hypothesis that sleep is needed to clear the brain's short-term memory
    storage and make room for new information, said Walker, who is presenting
    his preliminary findings on Sunday, Feb. 21, at the annual meeting of the
    American Association of the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Diego,
    Calif. [1] Walker and others have previously studied the harmful effects of
    sleep deprivation (such as all-nighters) on sleep and learning capacity.
    This study is among the first to demonstrate that the brain's ability to
    absorb new information declines over the course of a normal day, and that
    naps can reverse this decline, according to Walker, who presented his
    findings on Sunday at the American Association of the Advancement of
    Science'''s annual meeting in San Diego. [3]

    There's one more twist: People's ability to learn declines about 10 percent
    between noon and 6 p.m. normally, but the nappers were able to negate that
    decline. The structure of the study suggests that a phase of non-dreaming
    sleep that the nappers went through is boosting memory, he said. "This is
    further evidence that sleep plays a critical role in the processing of
    memories," he said. "It provides more evidence that it's not just important
    to sleep after learning, but you need it before learning to prepare the
    brain for laying down information." It's important to sleep long enough to
    give the brain an opportunity to go through various cycles of sleep, he
    said. [4]

    In the study, the researchers asked 39 college students to learn a series of
    new names and faces at noon and match the faces and names a few minutes
    later. They then performed the same test at 6 p.m. the same day. A group of
    students who took a 90-minute afternoon nap at 2 p.m. performed better than
    non-napping students, who had a serious decline in their memory test scores.
    [3] The longer you're awake, the more difficult it is for your brain to
    store new information, whether it'''s faces and names, the details of a
    conversation, or mental notes for a big presentation. An afternoon nap seems
    to refresh this short-term memory and free up space for new information,
    researchers found. [3] A nap during the day doesn't just beat tiredness, but
    actually improves the brain's ability to absorb new information, claim U.S.
    scientists. Volunteers who slept for 90 minutes during the day did better at
    cognitive tests than those who were kept awake. [2]

    Scientists believe sleep is needed to clear the brain's short-term memory
    storage and make space for new information. [5]

    While the findings are preliminary, new research raises the prospect that
    sleep, specifically a lengthy afternoon nap, prepares the brain to remember
    things. [4] New research from the University of California, Berkeley, shows
    that an hour's nap can dramatically boost and restore your brain power. [1]

    New research by a team of U.S. experts shows that memories are "downloaded"
    in the brain during a specific phase of sleep. [5] The results support
    previous data from the same research team that pulling an all-nighter - a
    common practice at college during midterms and finals -- decreases the
    ability to cram in new facts by nearly 40 percent, due to a shutdown of
    brain regions during sleep deprivation. [1]

    "Sleep is sophisticated. It acts locally to give us what we need." Walker
    and his team will go on to investigate whether the reduction of sleep
    experienced by people as they get older is related to the documented
    decrease in our ability to learn as we age. Finding that link may be helpful
    in understanding such neurodegenerative conditions as Alzheimer's disease,
    Walker said. [1] Jessica Payne, an assistant professor at the University of
    Notre Dame, said the study findings "really add to something we already know
    about why sleep is important." One message from the research, she said, is
    that sleep can be valuable for "students and for people who are struggling
    with their memory because they're aging." Other recent research has
    suggested that sleep can help you think more creatively, have better
    long-term memory and preserve important memories. [4] The research was
    funded by the National Institutes of Health. Don't email this article to
    your boss to justify sleeping on the job quite yet. Neil Kline, DO, a
    board-certified sleep physician, says that while "the average reader will
    take away from this that taking a nap is a good thing and will improve
    memory," Walker's study has some caveats. [3] Dr Matthew Walker, who led the
    study, reported at the AAAS conference in San Diego, said: "Sleep not only
    rights the wrong of prolonged wakefulness, but, at a neurocognitive level,
    it moves you beyond where you were before you took a nap. "It's as though
    the e-mail inbox in your hippocampus is full, and, until you sleep and clear
    out all those fact e-mails, you're not going to receive any more mail. "It's
    just going to bounce until you sleep and move it into another folder." [2]

    In the recent UC Berkeley sleep study, 39 healthy young adults were divided
    into two groups - nap and no-nap. [1]

    "The sleep-wake cycle is not as rigid as we might think - we have the
    capability to sleep in different ways." He said that while the brain effect
    reported in the study might be spotted in a laboratory setting, the picture
    became more clouded in the "real world". "The size of these effects are much
    more difficult to assess - if I have to learn something, for example, it's
    easier to do this when I'm feeling awake and alert than when I'm sleepy."
    [2] Getting lots of sleep - and even nodding off for an hour or two - boosts
    brain power dramatically, according to scientists. The more hours people
    spend awake, the more sluggish their minds become, evidence shows. [5]
    Professor Derk-Jan Dijk, the director of the Surrey Sleep Research Centre,
    said that there was no clear evidence that daytime napping offered a
    distinct advantage over sleeping just once over 24 hours. [2]

    The wealth of study into the science of sleep in recent years has so far
    failed to come up with conclusive evidence as to the value of a quick
    "siesta" during the day. [2]

    "The brain's ability to soak up information is not always stable," Walker
    said. "It seems as though the brain's capacity may be a little like a
    sponge. It may get waterlogged with continued learning throughout the day."
    [4] Then the researchers took part in another memory exercise at 6 p.m.,
    after 20 had napped for 100 minutes during the break. Those who remained
    awake performed about 10 percent worse on the tests than those who napped,
    Walker said. [4] "I can't imagine Mother Nature would have us spend 50
    percent of the night going from one sleep stage to another for no reason,"
    Walker said. [1]

    Using electroencephalogram tests to track electrical activity in the brain,
    the researchers determined that memory-refreshing seems to occur between
    deep sleep and the dream state, called rapid eye movement or REM. [4] At
    noon, all the participants were subjected to a rigorous learning task
    intended to tax the hippocampus, a region of the brain that helps store
    fact-based memories. Both groups performed at comparable levels. [1] Two
    hours later the nap group took a 60-minute siesta while the no nap group
    stayed awake. [5]

    The results were presented at a conference in California. A UK-based expert
    said it was hard to separate the pure "memory boosting" effects of sleep
    from those of simply being less tired. [2]


    1. PhysOrg Mobile: A midday nap markedly boosts the brain's learning
    2. BBC News - Nap 'boosts' brain learning power
    3. Will an Afternoon Nap Make You Smarter? - Health News -
    4. Afternoon Nap Might Make You Smarter - BusinessWeek
    5. The Press Association: 'Lots of sleep' boosts your brain
  2. creekfeet

    creekfeet Sockfeet

    Eastern High Sierra
    Thanks, islandfinn! I read your post with pleasure, as I have always been a big fan of napping, even before I got sick. I enjoyed the articles, hoping lots of sleep hygienists were reading them too, and then I went and had my nap with a clear conscience.

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