A two-week study found that teenagers who split their sleep between one night’s sleep and an afternoon snooze learned more complex information better than those who got all of their sleep at night.
experts say researchpublished in the journal in January 2022 sleepa testament to the fact that napping boosts cognition — but it’s not a sign that young adults should change their sleep schedules, they warn.
well known Among scientists, sleep helps organize and consolidate memories. However, this research targets a specific piece of the memory puzzle: the schema, or the framework we use to make sense of new information. From a research perspective, “not much has been done about schemas and sleep, and very little has been done about naps and schemas,” said the first author. Hossein Agayan Gorkashania sleep and cognition researcher at the National University of Singapore.
To understand how schemas work, imagine learning what a cat is. Jessica MarchHe studies sleep and cognition at Royal Holloway, University of London. The schema for the “cat” concept would be a collection of traits gleaned from the felines encountered: furry, friendly, and whiskers.
“Then, when it meets a cat, it will hiss,” said March, who was not involved in the study. Perhaps sadly, we realize that the “friendly” trait isn’t universal, and tweak our schema accordingly.
“Schema updates are arguably one of the most important types of memory consolidation that humans do to become flexible creatures.” Tony CunninghamHe studies sleep and memory at Harvard Medical School and was not involved in the study.
The authors of this study investigated how naps affect that renewal process. In an empty school dormitory, he randomly assigned 53 of her 15- to 19-year-olds into two groups. Both had the same amount of time in bed per day, but they were divided differently. One group had him 8 hours at night, the other group he had 6 1/2 hours and in the afternoon he had a 90 minute nap.
The experiment lasted 2 weeks. First, participants learned a kind of schema. We looked at photos of strangers and learned how those strangers scored against each other on hypothesis tests. Then, as new photos were added or photos were reordered, the stranger’s score ranking changed. Participants were quizzed on their ranking after each change and at the end of the experiment.
The napping group consistently performed better, suggesting that they updated their schemas more effectively. By the final quiz, on average, those who took a nap answered 82% of the questions correctly, and he outperformed those who didn’t nap by 10%.
According to Gorkashani, there are several potential explanations. For one thing, “You get sleepy during the day,” he said. “Napping relieves this sleep pressure and optimizes learning.”
What the brain is doing during naps may also play a role, Gorkashani said. To explain this, he pointed to another part of the experiment. The team tested both naps and no naps on all participants with a list of photos they hadn’t had the chance to know at first. In other words, it didn’t have a schema. In general, the schema led to better results than the absence, but how much better was dependent on the sleeper’s EEG. Participants who had a higher density of spiky electrical signals, known as “fast spindles,” Linked to memory benefits In the past, we’ve seen more boosts from having a schema.
Gorkashani emphasized that the correlation is not necessarily due to the mitotic spindle. The research team didn’t find a big difference in spindle density between the nap group and the non-nap group, but he thinks timing might be important. It may have helped people who take naps learn better, not just at night when they have the opportunity to close their eyes and generate spindles midway through the learning process.
He said the study applies only to adolescents.But it’s an important group, said Temitayo Oigbil Chidi, sleep medicine clinician and researcher at the University of California, Davis.Adolescent sleep cycle patterns are unique in that they are delayed, with teens tending to sleep later and sleep longer. not getting the sleep you need.
So should high school students divide their sleep into short nights and naps? Not so quickly, said Oyegbile-Chidi, who was not involved in the study. “There are so many other things I need sleep for,” she said. Changing your sleep schedule can affect things other than cognition, she noted, because it’s important for a variety of processes, including hormone secretion.
Cunningham said figuring out exactly why naps helped in this study could be a useful next step.
“This is a great study to talk about the power of naps,” he said.