Sleeping in Lectures: Science Says Yes!

You’ve been at uni now for a little while. You’ve gotten used to attending lectures, completing tutorials, pulling all-nighters for that assignment due tomorrow (due tomorrow, do tomorrow amirite?), and I’m sure that you’ve come across THAT guy (or girl): the sleeper.

The one who comes to class and falls asleep. I’ll be honest, I’ve done it a couple of times. I’ve gotten death-stares from my lecturers after they’ve instructed somebody to wake me up, but I don’t see the problem. It’s a legitimate memory strategy… well, for preschoolers at least.

Sleep researchers from the University of Massachusetts have found that classroom naps help kids improve their memory. The research, led by psychologist Rebecca Spencer and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that children who napped performed significantly better on a visual-spatial task later in the afternoon and the following day, compared to children who didn’t nap.

“Essentially, we are the first to report evidence that naps are important for preschool children,” Spencer said. “Our study shows that naps help the kids better remember what they are learning in preschool.”

Forty children were recruited from preschools, and were taught a visual-spatial task similar to the game ‘memory’ in the morning. Half the children were allowed to sleep during their scheduled naptime, while the other half were kept awake.

The researchers found that when they asked the children to play the memory game again, the children who stayed awake performed significantly worse than their napping counterparts. Children who napped were ten percent more accurate in the memory retrieval than those who stayed awake.

“While the children performed about the same immediately after learning the game, the children performed significantly better when they napped, both in the afternoon and the next day,” the researchers said. “When they miss a nap, the child cannot recover this benefit of sleep with their overnight sleep. It seems that there is an additional benefit of having the sleep occur in close proximity to the learning.”

So next time 3:30 PM rolls around, AKA three-thirtyitis, and you fall asleep in your lecture and are confronted by a disappointed lecturer, tell them it’s a memory strategy (just don’t mention it only works for preschoolers.)

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