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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Memories are made with sleep

If you're studying for a test, rehearsing for a play, or memorizing a difficult piece of an article, the best thing you can do for your memory is to get to bed on time, Two new studies suggest that we form memories in several stages, and sleep may be the most important stage of all.
In the first study, 84 college students learned to identify a series of similar-sounding words produced by a machine. Right after the training, they performed well on a word recall test. Later in the day, they didn't do as well. After a good night's sleep, however, their performance rebounded to where it had been the morning before.
For the second study ,a different group of researchers taught 100 adults to press a specific sequence of five number keys on a keyboard. The adults had to do it again and again as accurately and quickly as possible .Six hours later, they remembered original sequence even after they had just learned a second sequence . A night's sleep helped them do even better.
The researchers found that memory formation may require more than just one night of good sleep .On the second day, if participants were tested on the first sequence and then immediately learned a second sequence ,their memory for the first faded badly. If they weren't retested on the first before learning a second sequence, the adults remembered both sequences the following day.
These results suggest that briefly recalling something a day after you learned it can actually get it in the way of future recall, especially if you are learning something new right after. Lasting memories don't seem to form all at once . Instead, you need to sleep to help reinforce memories and keep them from fading away.
So if you really want to remember something, study bedtime, but don't stay up all night. You may learn less, but you will remember a whole lot more.

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