How many times have you pored over a list of complex words trying to memorize their meanings, but realized you couldn't?
Or maybe this sounds more familiar -- Your aerobics instructor takes your group through a new dance several times, but you seem to be the only one struggling to get the sequence right. It’s obvious you want to glide right through the learning like some of your more blessed friends.
Scientists are now telling us that a good way to shorten our learning curve and to promote recall is to get some sleep just after we learn the ropes the first time.
In her study, assistant professor and psychologist from the University of Notre Dame, Dr. Jessica Payne, along with a team of researchers, observed 207 students who slept a minimum of six hours each night.
The students were given lists of semantically-related and semantically-unrelated words to study at either nine in the morning or nine in the evening. They were tested half an hour, 12 hours and 24 hours after being given a series of words. (1)
Studying the list of words utilized declarative or explicit memory, which is essentially a type of long-term memory comprising of facts, knowledge (semantic memory) and memories of past personal events (episodic memory). (2) To be able to function effectively in our everyday life, we use both semantic and episodic memories.
The following were observations made by the researchers for types of words learned when tested with or without sleep:
• Those given memory tests 12 hour after learning a series of unrelated words without sleep fared worse then those who took the test after 12 hours with sleep.
• No difference in memory existed for the test taken 12 hour after learning of related word pairs with or without sleep.
• Sleep-deprived participants who were given memory tests 24 hours after learning new words performed worse then the students who took the tests after sleeping shortly.
According to Payne, “Our study confirms that sleeping directly after learning something new is beneficial for memory.