The Better You Sleep, the Better You Work

Harvard study shows a good night's sleep makes the difference in performing tasks well

FRIDAY, July 5, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Practice alone isn't quite enough to make you perfect. You need to get enough sleep, too.

A study by Harvard Medical School researchers that appears in the July 3 issue of the journal Neuron says your ability to learn motor skills is maximized when you get a full night's sleep.

The study involved teaching groups of people to type a sequence of keys on a computer keyboard as quickly and accurately as they could. One group was trained in the morning and then re-tested 12 hours later. They were able to improve their typing ability by about 2 percent in the re-test.

Another group was trained in the evening and then re-tested 12 hours later, after they'd had a full night's sleep. They had an average 20 percent improvement in their performance when they were re-tested.

The study also found that the amount of performance improvement was linked to the amount of Stage 2 sleep, called non-rapid eye movement (NREM), experienced by the participants, particularly late in the night.

"This is the part of a good night's sleep that many people will cut short by getting up early in the morning," says the study's senior author, Matter Walker, a clinical fellow in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

"In order for an individual to learn new things, they may require a good night's sleep before the maximum benefit of the time they spend practicing is realized," Walker adds in the Harvard press release.

More information

This information from the Sleep Study describes the various stages of sleep and their effect on your waking hours alertness.

Robert Preidt and Consumer news

Updated on June 15, 2022

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