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Get Some Sleep To Learn Faster: Study

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How many times have you pored over a list of complex words trying to memorize their meanings, but realized you couldn't?

Or maybe this sounds more familiar -- Your aerobics instructor takes your group through a new dance several times, but you seem to be the only one struggling to get the sequence right. It’s obvious you want to glide right through the learning like some of your more blessed friends.

Scientists are now telling us that a good way to shorten our learning curve and to promote recall is to get some sleep just after we learn the ropes the first time.

In her study, assistant professor and psychologist from the University of Notre Dame, Dr. Jessica Payne, along with a team of researchers, observed 207 students who slept a minimum of six hours each night.

The students were given lists of semantically-related and semantically-unrelated words to study at either nine in the morning or nine in the evening. They were tested half an hour, 12 hours and 24 hours after being given a series of words. (1)

Studying the list of words utilized declarative or explicit memory, which is essentially a type of long-term memory comprising of facts, knowledge (semantic memory) and memories of past personal events (episodic memory). (2) To be able to function effectively in our everyday life, we use both semantic and episodic memories.

The following were observations made by the researchers for types of words learned when tested with or without sleep:

• Those given memory tests 12 hour after learning a series of unrelated words without sleep fared worse then those who took the test after 12 hours with sleep.

• No difference in memory existed for the test taken 12 hour after learning of related word pairs with or without sleep.

• Sleep-deprived participants who were given memory tests 24 hours after learning new words performed worse then the students who took the tests after sleeping shortly.

According to Payne, “Our study confirms that sleeping directly after learning something new is beneficial for memory. What's novel about this study is that we tried to shine light on sleep's influence on both types of declarative memory by studying semantically unrelated and related word pairs. Since we found that sleeping soon after learning benefited both types of memory, this means that it would be a good thing to rehearse any information you need to remember just prior to going to bed. In some sense, you may be 'telling' the sleeping brain what to consolidate.” (3)


1. Learning Best When You Rest: Sleeping After Processing New Info Most Effective; Science Daily News; Web May 2012; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120323205504.htm

2. Declarative (Explicit) & Procedural (Implicit) Memory; The Human Memory; Web May 2012; http://www.human-memory.net/types_declarative.html

3. Jessica Payne's Research Shows Benefit of Sleeping After Processing New Info; Department of Psychology, University of Notre Dame; Web May 2012; http://psychology.nd.edu/news/30152-learning-best-when-you-rest-sleeping-after-processing-new-info-most-effective-new-study-shows

Summary of the technical report may be accessed at:

1. Memory for Semantically Related and Unrelated Declarative Information: The Benefit of Sleep, the Cost of Wake; PLoS One; Web May 2012; http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0033079

Here’s a video resource from 2010 where researcher Dr. Jessica Payne from University of Notre Dame speaks on sleep and creativity:

1. ND Expert: Kids, Sleep and Creativity; YouTube; Web May 2012; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpKcEl6CqSY


Mamta Singh is a published author of the books Migraines for the Informed Woman – Tips From A Sufferer: ISBN: 978-81-291-1517-1 (Publisher: Rupa & Co. URL: http://www.amazon.com/Migraines-Informed-Woman-Tips-Sufferer/dp/8129115174/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1298990756&sr=1-2), Mentor Your Mind – Tested Mantras For The Busy Woman: ISBN: 978-81-207-5973-2 (Publisher: Sterling Publishers; URL: http://www.amazon.com/Mentor-Your-Mind-Tested-Mantras/dp/8120759737/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1316063179&sr=8-1) and the upcoming Women’s Complete Fitness Guide (Publisher: Hay House India).

She is also a seasoned business, creative and academic writer. She is a certified fitness instructor, personal trainer & sports nutritionist through IFA, Florida USA. Mamta is an NCFE-certified Holistic Health Therapist SAC Dip U.K. She is the lead writer and holds Expert Author status in many well-received health, fitness and nutrition sites. She runs her own popular blogs on migraines in women and holistic health.

Mamta holds a double Master's Degree in Commerce and Business. She is a registered practitioner with the UN recognized Art of Living Foundation. Please visit www.mamtasingh.com

Reviewed June 13, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by: Diderique Konig

Add a Comment2 Comments

Thank you Doctor for taking the time to read the article here at EmpowHer.


June 13, 2012 - 10:13pm

Makes perfect sense but life gets in the way of our sleep sometimes. I wish I could get the right amount of sleep every night but I do my best.


June 13, 2012 - 10:45am
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