Sleep Disorders

08 November 2010

Deep sleep good for learning

A new study showed that brain activity data collected from volunteers in a sleep group showed that deep sleep helped strengthen their memories of new words.


If you're trying to learn a new word, you may want to sleep on it, a new study suggests.

Researchers taught volunteers new words in the evening and then immediately tested their recall of the words. The deeper the volunteers slept the more words they remembered than they did immediately after learning them.

This improvement was not seen in another group of participants who learned new words and were tested in the morning and re-tested in the evening, with no sleep in between tests.

The brain activity data collected from the volunteers in the sleep group showed that deep sleep (slow-wave sleep) helped strengthen their memories of new words.

Sleep, memory

The researchers also found that a type of brain activity called sleep spindles played a role in the ability to remember new words. Sleep spindles are brief, but intense bursts of activity that indicate information transfer between two different memory storage areas, the hippocampus and the neocortex.

The more sleep spindles a person experienced during sleep, the more successful they were in using new words in their vocabulary.

"We suspected from previous work that sleep had a role to play in the reorganisation of new memories, but this is the first time we've really been able to observe it in action, and understand the importance of spindle activity in the process," said study co-author Gareth Gaskell, a professor in the psychology department at the University of York in England.

The study was published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

(Copyright © 2010 HealthDay. All rights reserved.)

Extroverts often sleep deprived
Effects of sleepless nights genetic


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

Sleep disorders expert

Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules