If someone came along and told you that they could make your memory work fives times better with basically no effort from you, and that they could accomplish this feat this very day in under an hour, you'd probably be a little skeptical of what they were selling. After all, what sounds too good to be true usually is.
But the people making these claims aren't shady salespeople pushing odd herbal remedies or gizmos of dubious effectiveness. No, they're neuropsychologists. And it's not pills or potions they're advocating. Instead, all they want you to do if you want to radically boost your memory is take a nap.
Yup, that's right. According to new research, by simply laying down and closing your eyes for under an hour, you can improve your memory five-fold.
The study out of a German university asked 41 participants to memorize words or word pairs. The research team then asked the subjects to either take a cat nap of less than an hour or kick back and watch a DVD for the same amount of time. After they finished, their recall of the memorized words was tested.
"Even a short sleep lasting 45 to 60 minutes produces a five-fold improvement in information retrieval from memory," explained researcher Axel Mecklinger. More specifically, while the DVD-watching group forgot lots of words, the nap takers could remember just as many as before their heads hit their pillows.
What's behind the ability of even a short snooze to help us retain information? The research release explains that "sleep spindles," a particular kind of brain activity that occurs in sleep, may help us tag and then recall important information.
The takeaway couldn't be clearer: "A short nap at the office or in school is enough to significantly improve learning success. Wherever people are in a learning environment, we should think seriously about the positive effects of sleep," Mecklinger concludes.
This is, no doubt, not the first you've heard about the benefits of napping, so why aren't you allowing yourself that afternoon snooze already?