A Snooze Boost

Person sleeping

Exams…ugh! I’m drinking Red Bull and pulling all-nighters but I can’t remember ANYTHING!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

After a good night’s sleep, our memory is tip-top compared to when we’re more bleary-eyed. But how does a snooze help us remember?

Jing Zhang and colleagues at University of California, Irvine wondered if a special activity in the sleeping brain improves memory. It’s called sleep spindles — why? When seen on a monitor, this activity has a spindle shape — wide in the middle, tapered at both ends.

Thirty-six volunteers learned words — like hair, cake, and cotton — before bed. Then, they took either a pill that promoted sleep spindles or a placebo. Their brain activity was monitored overnight.

Next morning, everyone took a vocabulary test. A week later, participants came back and repeated the process with the OPPOSITE pill.

Results? Sleepers remembered three more words out of twenty when taking the spindle-making pill. Researchers believe sleep spindles help your brain hold onto memories.

I guess “you snooze you lose” doesn’t apply here! And on that note. . . Nap time!

Zhang, J., Yetton, B., Whitehurst, L. N., Naji, M., & Mednick, S. C. (2020). The effect of zolpidem on memory consolidation over a night of sleep. Sleep. https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsaa084