Friday, June 17, 2011

Sleep and Problem Solving

I haven't posted in over a week because I was at the annual Sleep meeting in Minneapolis. At the meeting, there were some discussion about sleep, memory, and cognitive performance. So I thought I would post about a recent study done in the Journal of Sleep Research.

In this study, researchers assigned a gambling game to college students. Some of the students learned how to play the game in the morning, and others learned how to play it in the evening. The students then played the game 12 hours later. There was a trick to beating the game, but the students were not allowed to figure that out until they played the game. The results showed that in those that learned about the game in the evening, slept on it, and then played in the AM, 80% of them figured out the trick to the game. In those that learned about the game in the AM and played in the evening, without sleeping on it, only 40% figured out the trick to the game.

The researchers concluded that sleeping on it improved the students' performance. Perhaps it's because during sleep, the brain is able to organize the day's memories, which could have a positive effect on functioning the next day. Research has already shown that memory and performance can be negatively affected by sleep deprivation. This study further enhances are understanding of how sleep can affect the way our minds work. Therefore, when you have an important decision to make or problem to solve, consider sleeping on it first.

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