Saturday, July 10, 2010

Make Plans and Sleep on Them for Memory Boost

If you want to check off more items on that to-do list, your best bet may be to think it over and then get some rest.

A new Washington University study found people are more likely follow through with their plans if they memorize them before bedtime. Study participants who tried to carry out their intentions before sleep had less success.

The memory boost is a sort of “trigger effect.” A situation, place or thing the next day will suddenly remind you of your plans. Sleep strengthens the association between context and intention. Researchers say it doesn’t help the direct connection between the person and the message itself.

A process called prospective memory happens during slow wave, or deep sleep. Researchers believe it involves communication between the hippocampus and cortical regions. The hippocampus reactivates recently learned memories and places them in long-term storage.

The study involved four groups of 24 university students. One of the groups learned a test routine in the evening and returned for the test in the morning.
The group who tested in the morning performed the prospective memory task best in the part of the test that emphasized context.

The memory-boost may be helpful for everyday texts. For people who follow sleep hygiene the planning process seems to be an appealing wind-down activity compared to watching television or using a computer.

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