Last year, Stanford Medicine called sleep deprivation in teens “an epidemic,” linking it to a slew of negative health consequences — like an inability to concentrate, poor grades, drowsy-driving incidents, anxiety, depression and thoughts of suicide.

A new study has confirmed the benefits of getting some sleep in between study sessions, showing that catching more z’s may make it easier to recall what you studied and relearn what you've forgotten. The researchers looked at how repetition and sleep influence memory when they are combined.

"Our results suggest that interleaving sleep between practice sessions leads to a twofold advantage, reducing the time spent relearning and ensuring a much better long-term retention than practice alone," said psychological scientist Stephanie Mazza of the University of Lyon. "Previous research suggested that sleeping after learning is definitely a good strategy, but now we show that sleeping between two learning sessions greatly improves such a strategy."

Previous studies have shown the correlation between improved memory and both repeated practice and sleep, but there is little research investigating how repetition and sleep influence memory when they are combined.

Mazza and a team of researchers examined a group of 40 French adults that studied and then recited 16 French-Swahili word pairs in random order. Twelve hours after the initial session, participants translated the words again, practicing the whole list until all 16 words were correctly interpreted; sleeping in between sessions seemed to allow participants to learn in less time and with less effort.

"Memories that were not explicitly accessible at the beginning of relearning appeared to have been transformed by sleep in some way," Mazza said. "Such transformation allowed subjects to re-encode information faster and to save time during the relearning session."

Mazza and colleagues concluded that alternating study sessions with sleep might be an easy and effective way to remember information over longer periods of time with less study.

Source: Mazza S. Relearn Faster and Retain Longer: Along With Practice, Sleep Makes Perfect. Association For Psychological Science . 2016.

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