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Study reveals why it’s super smart to take naps

Researchers asked participants to perform a challenging motor task with and without sleep


dachshund dog in bed with young man sleeping a nap

By Joe Morgan via SWNS

Motor skills and memory can be boosted with just a 90-minute nap, new research has revealed.

Learning challenging motor tasks can be enhanced with sleep as it helps the brain to process and focus on the new skill, the study discovered.

After a short sleep, study participants were able to perform more quickly and more efficiently than if they did not have the extra shuteye.

Businessman holding human brain on his hand with logistics symbols around
(Image via Shutterstock)

Researchers asked participants to perform a challenging motor task with and without sleep.

The study asked people to play a computer game that asked them to move a cursor by activating specific arm muscles.

Each command to move the cursor in a particular direction was paired with a unique sound; after practicing, the participants played the game blindfolded and moved the cursor based on the sound cue alone.

Some participants then took a 90-minute nap and were able to perform the motions better than those who did not.

business woman tired fell asleep on the desk, in front of her laptop.
(Image via Shutterstock)

Ph.D. graduate Larry Cheng, at Illinois' Northwestern University, said they believe the approach could enhance rehabilitation for stroke and other neurological disorders.

He said: "We used targeted memory reactivation or TMR, whereby a stimulus has been associated with learning is presented again during sleep to bring on a recapitulation of waking brain activity.

"Our demonstration that memory reactivation contributed to skilled performance may be relevant for neurorehabilitation as well as fields concerned with motor learning, such as kinesiology and physiology."

He added: "Present findings support the conclusion that execution-based components of motor skill can be reactivated during sleep, resulting in enhanced performance after awakening.

"By extension, activating motor control networks during sleep may be an integral part of the mechanism for consolidation of motor skills.

"Furthermore, these findings open the door to future applications of TMR to augment the learning of a wide variety of motor skills.

"Nightly TMR may even be useful in a clinical context to supplement daily rehabilitation efforts for patients hoping to decrease motor impairments due to stroke or neurological dysfunction."

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