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Sleep Might Help You Solve Problems Better
Date:6/7/2011

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, June 7 (HealthDay News) -- Got a big decision to make and thinking about sleeping on it?

A new study suggests that might be a good idea; it found that people did a better job of learning a game when they got some shut-eye afterward.

The research doesn't prove that sleep will help you learn more effectively. But it does provide more evidence that your brain doesn't just rest and dream when you're asleep, said study co-author Rebecca Spencer, an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

The brain appears to also be reviewing the day's events and processing them, she said. "You put the movie in and you replay it. This says sleep is really adding something, that we shouldn't go with our gut instinct. We should sleep on it," she said.

It may seem obvious that people would perform a task better after getting some sleep. But Spencer said the new study is unique because it looks at people who had a brief chance to learn something and then either slept or stayed awake.

Other sleep research has focused on memory and on what happens when people don't get enough sleep. "Everything falls to pieces when you've been sleep-deprived," she said.

In the study, researchers assigned 54 college students (aged 18-23) to one of two groups. One learned a gambling game in the morning, while the other learned it in the evening, although no one was allowed to learn the trick to beating the game. Then they came back 12 hours later to play the game.

Those who had a chance to get a full night's sleep after learning the game did a better job of figuring out the trick to it. Eighty percent of those who slept figured out the trick to the game, while 40 percent of those who stayed awake did, Spencer said.

The researchers assigned the game to other groups of students and found that the time of day when they played it didn't affect their performan
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