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Learn While You Sleep: New Way to Multitask?

TUESDAY, Oct. 4 (HealthDay News) -- People may be learning while they sleep, dramatically improving their memory in some cases, a new study suggests.

Although the effects on memory vary greatly and are not well understood, Michigan State University researchers said their findings reinforce the need for a good night's sleep -- something 63 percent of Americans are not getting, according to the U.S. National Sleep Foundation.

"We speculate that we may be investigating a separate form of memory, distinct from traditional memory systems," lead researcher Kimberly Fenn, an assistant professor of psychology, said in a university news release. "There is substantial evidence that during sleep, your brain is processing information without your awareness and this ability may contribute to memory in a waking state."

Researchers studied more than 250 people and found that some had significant enhancement in their memory, while others had no change at all. They found, however, that most participants showed improvement.

More research is needed to explore whether or not this potential memory ability could boost academic performance, the study authors said in the news release.

"Simply improving your sleep could potentially improve your performance in the classroom," concluded Fenn.

The study was published recently in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

More information

The American Psychological Association provides more information on the importance of sleep.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Michigan State University, news release, September 2011

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