REM Sleep Improves Memory

A new study suggests that naps can “boost your ability to process and store information tenfold – but only if you dream while you’re asleep”.

The Center for Sleep and Cognition at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Mass., conducted a study on 99 college students. Students were asked to memorize “a complex maze on a computer”. Then the students were placed “inside a virtual 3-D version of the maze” and asked to “navigate to another spot within it”. The students did this several times before half of them were sent to take a 90-minute nap. The half that remained awake watched videos. Five hours later, all of the students were tested on the maze again. The students who napped tested better than the students who stayed awake, “even those who had reviewed the maze in their heads.” Of the students who napped, those who dreamt of the maze “performed 10 times better than the nappers who didn’t.”

The students who dreamt of the maze tested poorly on the maze the first time around, which may support a theory of researchers’ that the brain recognizes when a task is difficult and thus prompts dreams about it. The lead author of the study, Robert Stickgold said, “When you dream your brain is trying to look at connections that you might not think of or notice when [you’re] awake.” Michael Breus, clinical director of the sleep division for Arrowhead Health concurred, “The sleeping brain seems to be processing information on one level, but on a higher level, it helps evolve your memory network if the information is relevant or helpful in your life experience.”

Some vitamins, minerals and amino acids that help produce sleep are: Calcium, Magnesium, B vitamins (6 and 12), Inositol (enhances REM sleep), Chromium, Tryptophan, Serotonin, and Melatonin.


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