Sleep is important to a person’s health, that is a common fact. But what you probably didn’t know is that a short daytime nap goes a long way in helping you make the right choices in life.
A study examining the effects of short naps on the brain’s ability to process unconscious information published in the Journal of Sleep Research shows that daytime nap enhances the brains’ ability to process information.
It has long been established that enough sleep is vital for memory formation and the consolidation of new information. And now, through technological advancements scientists can fathom where the brain learning takes place, and how lack or inadequate sleep affects its neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to interact, that is, respond and adapt to the changes in the surrounding environment.
Several studies have been conducted to understand what goes on when someone is asleep. Although the majority of the research only confirmed what others already knew, a study reported by Medical News Today is somewhat a step toward a breakthrough. Not only did the involved scientists successfully locate specific memories, but they also made them strong when the subjects were asleep using auditory cues.
That said, the new study shifted the focus to the effect of a daytime nap on the brain’s ability to process what we are not consciously aware of as well as its impact on conscious behavior and choice reaction time.
From the study led by Liz Coulthard, a consultant senior lecturer in dementia neurology at the University of Bristol Medical School in the United Kingdom, it was discovered that daytime naps help people process unconscious information.
A total of 16 subjects participated in the study and they were given two tasks. The first involved a “masked prime task,” where the researchers presented information to the participants very briefly so that they didn’t have time to register the information consciously.
The second task featured a control criterion where the participants responded when they were shown a red or blue square on a screen.
After completion of the tasks, the subjects remained awake or took a 90-minute nap before performing the tasks again.
Meanwhile, the scientist measured the brain activity of the participants both before and after the nap using an electroencephalogram. This was followed by a test of their choice reaction time.
After careful examination, it was confirmed that naps heightened the processing speed in the masked prime task, but not in the control task. What this means is that naps enhance the processing of information that was acquired unconsciously.
Therefore, a short period of sleep may aid in processing information, improving our reaction times, and potentially influencing our behavior when we are awake.
From the findings, the notion that what we perceive unconsciously is processed during sleep is conspicuously portrayed, bringing us to the conclusion that that sleep may help our decision-making ability when awake.
“The findings are remarkable in that they can occur in the absence of initial intentional, conscious awareness, by processing of implicitly presented cues beneath participants’ conscious awareness,” Coulthard remarked on the results.
More research, however, is needed and it should include larger sample sizes “to compare if and how the findings differ between ages, and investigation of underlying neural mechanisms.”