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It is known that sleep facilitates the formation of long-term memory in humans. In a new study, researchers from Uppsala University now show that sleep does not only help form long-term memory but also ensures access to it during times of cognitive stress.

It is well known that during newly learned information is transferred from short-term to stores in humans. In the study that is now being published in the scientific journal Sleep, sleep researchers Jonathan Cedernaes and Christian Benedict, sought to investigate the role of nocturnal sleep duration for this memory transfer, and how long-term memories formed by sleep remain accessible after acute cognitive stress.

Following a learning session in the evening during which 15 participants learned 15 card pair locations on a computer screen, in one experimental session subjects slept for half a night (4-hr) and in the other for a full night (8-hr). The next morning subjects were asked to recall as many card pair locations as possible. What the researchers found was that half a night of sleep (4-hr) was as powerful as a full night of sleep (8-hr) to form long-term memories for the learned card pair locations.

– Linda Koffmar

Source: Sleep loss makes memories less accessible in stressful situations