Science

Separating study sessions with sleep may be the key to exam success

Separating study sessions with...
Sleep could be the key to making memories more accessible
Sleep could be the key to making memories more accessible
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Sleep could be the key to making memories more accessible
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Sleep could be the key to making memories more accessible

New research from the Association forPhysiological Science suggests that taking sleep breaks between studysessions could help you to memorize information faster, and with lesseffort than repeated learning periods without rest. Previous work in the area had indicated that taking a rest after study can positively effect anindividual's memory. The new research attempted to discover whetherthe act of sleeping between two repetitive learning sessionscould further improve a person's memory.

The study saw 40 French-speakingparticipants randomly divided into two groups. Individuals from bothgroups were subjected to two identical sessions in which they werepresented with 16 French word pairs, alongside their Swahilitranslation.

For each word pair, the French andSwahili were displayed together for seven seconds. The Swahili words thenappeared on the screen alone, and the participants were prompted to typethe French translation. The correct translation then flashed up onthe screen for four seconds. This process continued until all of thepairs were correctly translated.

The sessions were taken with a 12-hourinterval. One group was instructed to sleep between the twoexercises, the second, to stay awake. It was discovered following thesecond exercise that the "sleep" group was able to correctlytranslate 10 out of the 16 word pairs, while the "awake" groupcould recall only 7.5 word pairs on average.

"Memories that were not explicitlyaccessible at the beginning of relearning appeared to have beentransformed by sleep in some way," states Stephanie Mazza, apsychological scientist at the University of Lyon, France. "Suchtransformation allowed subjects to re-encode information faster andto save time during the relearning session."

Furthermore, follow-up tests suggestthat the beneficial effects of the learning technique persist for atleast six months after the sessions. So, next time you've got a big exam coming up, be sure to employ strategic power naps.

Source: Association for Psychological Science

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