Monday, February 22, 2010

Naps and all-nighters

The nap culture at Princeton may be one of the "saving graces" of Princetonians after all.

A study conducted by scientists at Berkeley has shown that an hour of sleep in the afternoon boosts the brain's ability to absorb new facts.

The scientists discovered that a memory-refreshing process occurs during sleep when fact-based information is filed and cleared from the brain's short term memory storage and "sent to the brain's prefrontal cortex, the filing cabinet of the mind".

Matthew Walker, a professor at Berkeley, explained, "It's as though the e-mail inbox in your hippocampus is full and, until you sleep and clear out those fact e-mails, you're not going to receive any more mail. It's just going to bounce until you sleep and move it into another folder."

The results of the study also support previous research that found that "all nighters" can reduce one's ability to learn new facts by 40 percent. The short term memory, which is usually filed and emptied during sleep, fills up during such periods of sleep deprivation.

The message is clear for Princetonians: indulge in "afternoon siestas" and maybe you won't need the "all nighters" after all.

By Lavanya Jose, staff writer for News.