According to the new study published in the Journal of Sleep Research, “sleeping on a decision” support this age-old advice as a sound choice, and suggests that daytime naps can actually help us acquire information that is not consciously perceived. The study included measuring participants’ brain activity and responses before and after a short nap, and the results suggest a short period of sleep helps people better weigh up the pros and cons before making a challenging decision.
The study was conducted at the University of Bristol, and the Medical Research Council founded it. The study aimed to identify whether short sleep can help us process unconscious information, and how that affects our behavior and reaction time. The results reveal a significant benefit of day-time naps on cognitive brain function and suggest our mind can process information that we are not consciously aware of during those naps.
Previous studies showed that sleep helps with problem-solving. However, it’s not clear if some kind of mental process is required before or during shuteye in order for sleep to help problem-solving. Researchers have noticed that our brain processes information at a subliminal level within the mind, to the extent the entire process is not conscious. The electrical activity naturally produced in the brain was measured using an EEG before and after a nap, and the results suggest that sleep (not the state of wakefulness) improves processing speed in tasks where information is hidden or hard to grasp. Rest doesn’t enhance processing speed in simple, control tasks, etc.
We already know that sleep positively affects the process of acquiring knowledge and recall of information, and we also know that snoozing improves and strengthens our memory. However, from this study, we can also conclude that naps and sleep can also improve our responses and help us to process information faster. Dr. LizCoulthard from the University of Bristol Medical School announced further research that will aim to study larger samples and find out more about the underlying neural mechanisms. Researchers are also interested in finding out see if and how the results differ between ages.