Can Sleeping Make You Smarter?
Sleep is a wonderful thing – a good night’s sleep can restore the mind and body. Sleep deprivation is linked to a range of medical problems, from hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and even heart disease. Over recent years, there have been various studies held in an attempt to distinguish any links between sleeping and increased intelligence.
In 2008, German researchers performed a study on sleeping students. Participants were tasked with memorising a list of 30 words. After a period of time spent studying the list, half the participants were asked to sleep, whilst the remainder were told to stay awake.
Those who were asked to stay awake remembered fewer than seven words. Participants who napped for as little as six minutes were able to memorise on average a total of eight words. The study found that those who napped for 36 minutes topped the list with an average total of nine more memorised words.
The research carried out in 2008 would appear to indicate that even a brief nap can be beneficial to memory. That being said, one standalone study cannot be used as conclusive evidence for research. In 2010 further studies were carried out by Harvard Medical School to determine whether sleep could boost memory.
Researchers from Harvard wanted to study whether dreaming could reactivate and reorganise recently learned materials, therefore improving memory and boosting performance. The study was carried out by examining 99 healthy college students who agreed to avoid alcohol, caffeine, and drugs for at least 24 hours prior to the experiment.
Participants in the study were allowed a one-hour period to study a complex three-dimensional maze-like puzzle. After the hour was over, half of the participants were allowed to nap for 90 minutes, whilst the remaining students were allowed to read and relax.
Harvard researchers felt that the study showed how a dreaming brain can recognise and consolidate memories, resulting in better performance on learned tasks.
Whether you believe the studies provide conclusive evidence or if you believe further research must be carried out, one thing for sure is that a good night’s sleep is associated with good health.