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Need to Remember What You’re Studying? Take a Nap!

Written by Christine Rees

Photo by David Clode

Before you lose that studying drive, memorize what you can and then… sleep! A study in Germany found that taking a power nap in the afternoon (between 1 PM – 6 PM) can improve your memory by fivefold. This isn’t the first study that’s found a correlation between napping and memory. And it probably won’t be the last. 

improving studying habits by napping
Photo by Jacob Townsend on Unsplash

How Does This Work?

Scientists behind this theory believe that taking a short nap after learning new information can speed up the process of retaining it. In this experiment, researchers had two groups of people memorize a set of illustrated cards and, after 40 minutes, had them learn another set. One group napped during the 40-minute break while the other group stayed awake and, surprisingly, the sleepy group performed better! On average, they retained approximately 85% of the patterns compared to the 60% remembered by the group that stayed awake.

When memory is first recorded, it’s stored in the hippocampus. This means it can be easily forgotten, especially when the brain is trying to memorize more things immediately after. However, napping shoves those memories to the neocortex—the brain’s “more permanent storage”. This prevents those memories from being overridden. 

By taking a nap, you are giving your brain a break from incoming information. Therefore, your brain is able to process and effectively reorganize those thoughts for better memory. Now when you wake up, that information is easily accessible. 

How Long Should You Nap For To Improve Your Studying?

Sleeping between 30-60 mins during the day can help your brain process and retain information. When you’re napping for about an hour, your brain progresses through Stages 1 and 2 (the lighter stages of sleep) before entering slow-wave sleep (deep sleep). Memories based on learned facts benefit from this type of sleep because it moves them from short-term memories to long-term storage. 

Even though a 6-10 minute nap can temporarily preserve memory, longer naps that reach that deep sleep tends to keep memories around longer and protect them from any interfering information. 

So, there you go! Instead of studying for hours and hours, just take a nap in between. It’s better for your brain and your grades! Looking for more tips? Check out these motivational strategies to keep studying!

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*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.