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Science: 

The unexpected power of the powernap

Putting the 'power' in 'power nap'. Science has made us feel less guilty...

Putting the ‘power’ in ‘power nap’. Science has made us feel less guilty…

We’re big advocates of the nap. Unfortunately, our Editors don’t always share our enthusiasm for a worktime snooze. If your bosses are similarly mean, print out this article and show it to them. Though you may want to cross out the word ‘mean’ from the previous line, and replace it with a more flattering synonym. Like ‘dedicated’.

Anyway, scientists have discovered that a 45-60 minute power nap can give you a five-fold boost to your short-term memory. You read that right: a 500% boost.

The study was conducted by graduate student Sara Studte, who taught 90 words and 120 additional unrelated words to a group of 41 subjects. Half of these were allowed to take a nap after the lesson, while the other half were made to watch a DVD to unwind. Although to us, the ‘unwinding’ part of that sentence seems to be undone by the ‘made to’ segment.

When the participants were tested on their recall of the word learning exercise, those who had been allowed a little shut-eye performed far better than those who had been forced to chain-watch episodes of ‘Days of our Lives’ (or whatever dross the researchers chose.) In fact, the memory of those who napped was just as good as it was when they did the initial learning part of the study.

Why? It’s all to do with sleep spindles – a burst of rapid oscillations in the electroencephalogram – Studte explained: “We suspect that certain types of memory content, particularly information that was previously tagged, is preferentially consolidated during this type of brain activity.”

“A short nap at the office or in school is enough to significantly improve learning success,” commented Professor Axel Mecklinger, who supervised the study.

“Wherever people are in a learning environment, we should think seriously about the positive effects of sleep.” Preaching to the choir, buddy. Can we get those GoExplore hammocks we’ve been after, now?

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