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Sleep Improves Learning Performance

Improvements in learning deteriorate following wakefulness but are recovered after sleep

MONDAY, Nov. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Although prolonged wakefulness decreases improvements in learning, this is recovered and stabilized following a sleep period, according to research published in the November issue of Learning and Memory.

Timothy P. Brawn, from the Neuroscience Institute at the University of Chicago, and colleagues evaluated learning as the ability to improve performance playing a first-person shooter video game (measured as mean percentage points). Participants were given a pretest and training, followed by a post-test after either 12 hours of wakefulness (wake group) or 12 hours during which they had a regular sleep period (sleep group). Two additional groups underwent a pretest and training either in the morning or evening, followed by a post-test 24 hours later. Control groups were used to control for time-of-day effects.

After remaining awake for 12 hours, performance improvement in the wake group (4.28) was significantly reduced compared with both the matched control group (8.63) and the matched 24-hour group (9.81), the researchers report. In contrast, after a normal sleep period, performance improvement in the sleep group (10.34) was not significantly different than either the matched control group (7.71) or the matched 24-hour control group (9.95), the report indicates.

"Whereas 12 hours of wakefulness after training resulted in significant performance deterioration, 12 hours of wakefulness after training and a night of sleep resulted in no such loss, indicating that sleep stabilized learning," the authors conclude.

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