Sleep and Memory
http://news.uchicago.edu/article/2008/11/17/sleep-helps-people-learn-complicated-tasks - article
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v425/n6958/full/nature01951.html - paper
Howard Nusbaum from Chicago University conducted a study on the memory of a person and learning a task before and after sleep. The study involved participants learning a video game with complex conditions and controls (one that they have not played before and mostly individuals who do not play video games regularly) and remembering them through the span of 12 hours and 24 hours, from morning to evening, evening to morning, morning to morning, and evening to evening. The participants trained in the morning showed an average of 8% increase in learning and accuracy immediately after training. After 12 hours the participants lost half of this increase, but after a full night's rest the increase rose to 10%. Similarly, in the evening the participants gained a 7% increase immediately after training and then a 10% increase after a night of sleep.
The participants retained more after a night of sleep. With an increase of 2% and 3% respectively for morning and evening cases. The article continues further to state that it may have been the other activities throughout the day that hinders the previous tasks that an individual may have undertaken, but with a night of rest the brain is able to decipher what is important and filter out what is unnecessary.
In society nowadays it is assumed that it is better to cram everything we need to do and learn in as much time as possible, and the longer you stare at a page in a book or recite flash cards will make you retain information better and fuller. This studies shines light on this matter and reveals a flaw in the way we might have been thinking.
Rest for the body is also for the mind, and is very much needed for the brain to decipher what it needs to keep and learn and to put to long term memory. Instead of staying up for days it might be better to sleep regularly and fully.
Do you think the study might have been different if the subject matter were to be something other than a video game?
Possibly something straight forward such as a list of words or something visual to remember like symbols or pictures might effect the outcome and the way that an individual may remember.
This study gives the explanation that it was the other stimuli throughout the day was was the reason for why the individual was hindered from being able to recall and redo the complex task of the video game, but does not propose whether or not if an individual were to only be stimulated in a task similar to what he or she would have to recall then the individual may have done better at the task without having to sleep.