London, Oct. 9 (Reuters): Nothing beats a good night’s sleep, especially to retrieve memory or to boost the ability to learn language, scientists said yesterday.
The benefits of sleep are well known but researchers at the University of Chicago provide scientific evidence showing that while we sleep the brain activity encourages higher types of learning.
“Sleep has at least two separate effects on learning,” said Daniel Margoliash, of the University of Chicago.
“Sleep consolidates memories, protecting them against subsequent interference or decay. Sleep also appears to recover or restore memories,” he added in a report in the journal Nature.
He and his colleagues tested the ability of three groups of college students to understand words generated from a difficult-to-comprehend voice synthesiser. They measured their ability to recognise the words and then trained them to do it.
After testing the first group one hour after they had been trained 54 per cent recognised the words, more than double the number before training.
The second group was trained in the morning and tested 12 hours later. Only 10 percent did better than before the training. But students trained in the evening and tested the following morning, after a night's sleep, improved their performance by 19 percentage points.
When students who had been trained in the morning were tested again after they slept their scores also improved.
“If performance is reduced by interference, sleep might strengthen relevant associations and weaken irrelevant associations, improving access to relevant memories,” the researchers said.