“Sleep on it” is one of those old sayings that may run contrary to our face paced, quick decision culture, but more evidence is supporting the effectiveness of this advice.
The significance of sleep lies in the phase of sleep called REM or Rapid Eye Movement sleep where the eyes move in rapid movements behind closed eye lids, muscles are imobilized, heart and breathing rates are irregular. It’s the phase of sleep where most of our dreaming occurs.
While there are many theories about the reasons for the function of REM sleep, new research seems to support one of the more common theories around memory consolidation and particularly related to creative problem solving.
Researchers at University of California, San Diego gave word-association tests to volunteers and compared their performance under three different circumstances. The volunteers were presented with a creative problem and were then given time away from the problem – first with no nap, then with a nap without REM sleep, and then with a nap that included REM sleep.
In the series whre the volunteers were able to achieve REM sleep, they performed about 40% better on the tests than in the other scenarios. While during the REM sleep scenario, volunteers did nap a little longer on average than when they napped without REM, researchers point out the the length of the nap didn’t have a bearing on their success, only whether they achieved REM sleep.
The latest research was published in the June 8th edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and supports previous research that connects daytime napping with REM sleep to improved memory function.
So go ahead and lie down for a good nap and improve your memory and problem solving skills. Since I can’t think of anything more enjoyable than an afternoon nap during one of our summer monsoon thunderstorms, it’ll be time well spent. Enjoy it.