Making art, creating things and indulging in creative hobbies are known to make us happier,…
EVANSTON, Illinois – Nap can help many people feel refreshed and recharged during a long day. Today, a new study adds evidence for the belief that a quick ‘restorative nap’ really helps body and mind. Researchers at Northwestern University say taking a nap of just 90 minutes can boost both motor skills and memory.
The team finds that sleep can improve a person’s ability to learn difficult motor tasks because it helps the brain process and focus on the new skill. After a short sleep, the study participants were able to function faster and more efficiently than if they had not had additional rest.
During their experiment, the researchers asked the participants to perform a difficult motor task with and without sleep. The volunteers played a computer game that asked them to move a cursor using specific muscles in the arms.
The study authors associated each control to move the cursor in a particular direction with a unique sound. After practicing, participants played the game blindfolded and moved the slider based only on the corresponding sounds.
Improve patient rehabilitation
Some participants then took a 90-minute nap and were able to perform the movements better than those who did not. Northwestern PhD graduate Larry Cheng said the team believed the approach could improve rehabilitation therapies for patients with stroke and other neurological conditions.
“We used targeted memory reactivation or TMR, whereby a stimulus that has been associated with learning is re-presented during sleep to induce a recapitulation of waking brain activity,” write researchers in the journal. JNeurosci.
“Our demonstration that memory reactivation contributed to skilled performance may be relevant for neuroreeducation as well as areas concerned with motor learning, such as kinesiology and physiology.”
“The current results support the conclusion that performance-based motor skills components can be reactivated during sleep, which improves performance after waking up,” Cheng’s team added in a statement to SWNS. “By extension, the activation of motor control networks during sleep may be an integral part of the mechanism of motor skill consolidation.”
“Additionally, these findings open the door to future applications of RTM to increase learning of a wide variety of motor skills,” the study authors told SWNS. “Nocturnal TMR may even be useful in a clinical setting to complement the daily rehabilitation efforts of patients wishing to reduce motor impairment due to stroke or neurological dysfunction. “
South West News Service writer Joe Morgan contributed to this report.