A new study suggests drawing up a to-do list and then 'sleeping on it' to help us remember better.
Psychologists at Washington University in St. Louis said that people who sleep after processing and storing a memory carry out their intentions much better than people who try to execute their plan before getting to sleep.
Researchers Michael Scullin, doctoral candidate in psychology, and his adviser, Mark McDaniel, PhD, professor of psychology in Arts and Sciences, are focusing on "prospective memory" - things we intend to do - as opposed to "retrospective memory" - things that have happened in the past.
For instance, if you intend to give a colleague a message tomorrow, seeing him the next day will be a strong cue to remember, but when you were encoding the intention, you were also vaguely thinking of a meeting the two of you will attend the next afternoon.
The context of the conference room is weakly associated with your intention to give the message even though you haven't really thought explicitly about associating the room with the message.
Because before sleeping you remembered you had a message to deliver to your colleague and you would see him in the conference room tomorrow, sleep enhances the likelihood that you will tell him in the conference room, but not in some other context, the office, elevator, the mail room, for example.
The find is published online this month in Psychological Science.