According to a new study, taking a midday nap can dramatically boost brain's learning capacity power.
The new research suggests that a biphasic sleep schedule not only refreshes the mind, but can also make you smarter.
On the other hand, the more hours we spend awake, the more sluggish our minds become, according to the findings.
The new findings support previous data from the same research team that pulling an all-nighter - a common practice at college during midterms and finals-decreases the ability to cram in new facts by nearly 40 percent, due to a shutdown of brain regions during sleep deprivation.
"Sleep not only rights the wrong of prolonged wakefulness but, at a neurocognitive level, it moves you beyond where you were before you took a nap," said Matthew Walker, an assistant professor of psychology at UC Berkeley and the lead investigator of these studies.
In the recent UC Berkeley sleep study, 39 healthy young adults were divided into two groups - nap and no-nap.
At noon, all the participants were subjected to a rigorous learning task intended to tax the hippocampus, a region of the brain that helps store fact-based memories. Both groups performed at comparable levels.
At 2 p.m., the nap group took a 90-minute siesta while the no-nap group stayed awake. Later that day, at 6 p.m., participants performed a new round of learning exercises.
The researchers found that those who remained awake throughout the day became worse at learning but those who napped did markedly better and actually improved in their capacity to learn.
These findings reinforce the researchers' hypothesis that sleep is needed to clear the brain's short-term memory storage and make room for new information, said Walker.
He has presented the preliminary findings on Sunday, Feb. 21, at the annual meeting of the American Association of the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Diego, Calif.