What's going on? The brain appears to process what it's learned during sleep, Spencer said. "It's filing it away. And when you file things, you're not just putting them in the file drawer. You're putting them in a real organized fashion, you're filing it next to things."
Sleep researcher Michael P. Stryker, a professor at the University of California at San Francisco, said the study does have an important limitation: "Is the difference really a gain in performance after sleep because of some kind of 'insight' or 'problem-solving' that happens during sleep, or is it that being awake for 12 hours makes you less able to perform the task?"
Sleep researcher Michael Anch, an associate professor at Saint Louis University, said the study "emphasizes the growing awareness of the importance of sleep for optimal cognitive functioning."
"This study is consistent with other studies suggesting that sleep allows you to integrate learned information from various brain regions, which is not allowable by instant decisions," Anch said. "This gives credence to the notion that if you have a decision to make, sleep on it!"
The study appears in the current online issue of the Journal of Sleep Research.
For more about sleep, see the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: Rebecca M.C. Spencer, Ph.D., assistant professor, psychology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Michael Anch, Ph.D., associate professor, psychology, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, Mo.; Michael P. Stryker, Ph.D., professor, physiology, University of California at San Francisco; Journal of Sleep Research, online
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