A Secret Weapon to Improve Memory—Sleep

If you’re working hard to memorize information for a presentation or if you have kids who soon will be studying for exams, here’s a tip to boost learning—sleep between study sessions.

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Researchers at the University of Lyon in Lyon, France, found that it is easier for people to recall what they studied and relearn what they had forgotten when they slept between study sessions. The benefits can last as long as six months later, according to the Association for Psychological Science.

In the experiment, study participants were asked to learn a list of Swahili words in two learning sessions 12 hours apart. One group worked on the list in the morning and evening. The other group studied the list in the evening and then again in the morning, after a full night’s rest.

During the first session, both groups learned at about the same pace. Twelve hours later, the group that slept remembered more words and were able to memorize the remaining words more quickly than the other group.

A week later, the sleep group still recalled more words than the awake group. The same results held six months later.

“Memories appeared to have been transformed by sleep in some way,” says researcher Stephanie Mazza. “Such transformation allowed subjects to re-encode information faster and to save time during the relearning session.”

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