Sleep on This: Nap Boosts Your Brain's Ability to Learn

If you've ever felt guilty of taking a noontime siesta, here's science coming to your rescue. A new study revealed that napping can boost your ability to learn:

"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 study author Matthew Walker, a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

The study involved 39 healthy young adults who were placed into either a nap or no-nap group. At noon, all the participants performed a learning task intended to exercise the hippocampus, a region of the brain that helps store fact-based memories. Both groups performed at comparable levels on this test.

Then at 2 p.m., the nap group took a 90-minute siesta while the no-nap group stayed awake. 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. In contrast, those who napped did markedly better and actually improved in their capacity to learn.

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