Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on Sept. 11. Volunteer today



Contests and

Learning Centers

Get smart strategies for managing health conditions.


Heart Disease


Most Popular Articles


Don't Knock Naps — They Make You Smarter

Just 60 minutes of sleep can benefit your brain

Naps make you smarter and boost your ability to learn, say researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. In fact, they're the brain's way of making room for new information.

The longer we stay awake, the less able our brains are to learn. But just 60 minutes of shut-eye can boost learning ability significantly, says Matthew Walker, a Berkeley professor of psychology and the lead investigator of a study presented over the weekend at the American Association of the Advancement of Science conference in San Diego, CA.

The research could be interpreted to mean that a biphasic sleep schedule – a good night's sleep and a solid midday siesta, could increase intelligence.

Compare that with pulling an all-nighter, which previous research by this group showed can decrease the ability to learn by 40%. This learning deficit is caused by a shutting down of brain regions due to sleep deprivation.

Naps Make You Smarter

— Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Corbis

In the study, a group of 39 healthy young adults were divided into a nap and no-nap group. Each were given a difficult to-learn task at noon, designed to push hard on the hippocampus, the region of the brain that helps store fact-based memories. Research has shown that fact-based memories are first stored in the hippocampus, then moved to the prefrontal cortex for long-term storage.

Both groups did about the same.

At 2:00 PM in the afternoon the nap group got a 90-minute siesta.  Then at 6:00 PM both groups got a new set of learning tasks. The ones who hadn't gotten any shut-eye did markedly worse. Those who had caught 40 winks did much better and improved their capacity to learn.

Walker says this helps confirm his group's hypothesis, that sleep clears the brain's short-term memory storage to make room for new learning. Walker presented his preliminary findings Sunday at the AAAS Conference.

"It's as though the e-mail inbox in your hippocampus is full and, until you sleep and clear out those fact e-mails, you're not going to receive any more mail. It's just going to bounce until you sleep and move it into another folder," Walker said in a release.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

AARP Staying Sharp: Keep Your Brain Healthy


Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Walgreens 1 discount membership aarp

Members can earn 50 points per $1 spent on select health & wellness products at Walgreens.

member benefit aarp hear usa

Members save 15% on easy listening devices and more at the HearUSA Hearing Shop.

Eye Med 4 Membership Benefit AARP Discount

Members save up to 60% on eye exams and 30% on glasses at Target Optical.

Membership Benefits Discounts Email Genius

Brain boost? Get AARP email for access to memory exercises & more that help you focus.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points