Take a nap to sharpen your brain, suggests new science

A new study finds that naps bring cognitive benefits.

  • Researchers find that daytime naps help your brain deal with unconscious information.
  • A short sleep can improve brain processing speed.
  • Scientists looked at how subjects performed on tasks they were not consciously aware of.

Maybe you knew this already, but daytime naps are good for you. But why exactly? A new study that measured changes in people's brains before and after naps found that there are clear cognitive benefits to sleeping on it. A nap can help with how we process and react to information.

Researchers from the University of Bristol in the U.K discovered that even a short period of sleep allows our brains to interpret unconscious information that is not part of our usual awareness.

For the study, the scientists recruited sixteen participants of varying ages. Since prior research established that sleep helps problem solving, the researchers probed whether a conscious mental process is necessary before or during sleep to help with that.

In the experiments, the participants were shown information very briefly, effectively "masking" it to avoid conscious perception. But this information, which consisted of specially-chosen words, was processed subliminally in the brain, allowing the scientists to zero in on whether this hidden knowledge interferes with consciously perceived info.

The participants carried out their main task – the masked prime task – and a control task, where they had to react if they spotted red or blue squares on a screen. After their tasks, the subjects were made to either take a 90-minute nap or stay awake before performing the same tasks again.

Scientists studied how the brains of the participants reacted using an EEG and saw that sleep improved the processing speed of the masked prime task. The same effect was not observed for the control task. This indicated that sleep was responsible for inducing improvement in tasks that were processed unconsciously.

The researchers conclude that even a bit of sleep can go a long way in helping us deal deeper with information that comes at us during waking hours.

The study was carried out by Netasha Shaikh and Elizabeth Coulthard from the University of Bristol.

Dr. Coulthard, who is the Consultant Senior Lecturer in Dementia Neurology at the University of Bristol Medical School, remarked that their "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."

Check out the new study published in the Journal of Sleep Research.

Will China’s green energy tipping point come too late?

Pay attention to the decisions made by the provinces.

Surprising Science
  • China leads the world in numerous green energy categories.
  • CO2 emissions in the country totaling more than all coal emissions in the U.S. have recently emerged.
  • This seems to be an administrative-induced blip on the way towards a green energy tipping point.
Keep reading Show less

Got a question for a real NASA astronomer? Ask it here!

NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller is coming back to Big Think to answer YOUR questions! Here's all you need to know to submit your science-related inquiries.

Surprising Science

Big Think's amazing audience has responded so well to our videos from NASA astronomer and Assistant Director for Science Communication Michelle Thaller that we couldn't wait to bring her back for more!

And this time, she's ready to tackle any questions you're willing to throw at her, like, "How big is the Universe?", "Am I really made of stars?" or, "How long until Elon Musk starts a colony on Mars?"

All you have to do is submit your questions to the form below, and we'll use them for an upcoming Q+A session with Michelle. You know what to do, Big Thinkers!

Keep reading Show less

5 communication pitfalls that are preventing people from really hearing what you're trying to say

If you want to be a better and more passionate communicator, these tips are important.

Photo by CloudVisual on Unsplash
popular

If you identify as being a socially conscious person in today's age of outrage, you've likely experienced the bewildering sensation when a conversation that was once harmless, suddenly doesn't feel that way anymore. Perhaps you're out for a quick bite with family, friends, or coworkers when the conversation takes a turn. Someone's said something that doesn't sit right with you, and you're unsure of how to respond. Navigating social situations like this is inherently stressful.

Below are five expert-approved tips on how to maintain your cool and effectively communicate.

Keep reading Show less

Take the Big Think survey for a chance to win :)

Calling all big thinkers!

  • Tell us a little bit about where you find Big Think's videos, articles, and podcasts.
  • Be entered for a chance to win 1 of 3 Amazon gift cards each worth $100.
  • All survey information is anonymous and will be used only for this survey.
Keep reading Show less
(Photo: ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)
Culture & Religion
  • The next Mega Millions drawing is scheduled for Oct. 23 at 11 pm E.T.
  • The odds of any one ticket winning are about 1 in 300 million.
  • This might be a record-setting jackpot, but that doesn't mean you have a better chance of winning.
Keep reading Show less

The value of owning more books than you can read

Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my tsundoku.

(Photo from Wikimedia)
Personal Growth
  • Many readers buy books with every intention of reading them only to let them linger on the shelf.
  • Statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb believes surrounding ourselves with unread books enriches our lives as they remind us of all we don't know.
  • The Japanese call this practice tsundoku, and it may provide lasting benefits.
Keep reading Show less

How to raise a non-materialistic kid

Money makes the world go 'round. Unfortunately, it can make both children and adults into materialists.

Robert Collins / Unsplash
Personal Growth
  • Keeping a gratitude journal caused children to donate 60 percent more to charitable causes.
  • Other methods suggested by researchers include daily gratitude reflection, gratitude posters, and keeping a "gratitude jar."
  • Materialism has been shown to increase anxiety and depression and promote selfish attitudes and behavior.
Keep reading Show less

Elon Musk says Boring Company tunnel opens Dec. 10

The Boring Company plans to offer free rides in its prototype tunnel in Hawthorne, California in December.

Image: Getty Images/Claudia Soraya
Technology & Innovation
  • The prototype tunnel is about 2 miles long and contains electric skates that travel at top speeds of around 150 mph.
  • This is the first tunnel from the company that will be open to the public.
  • If successful, the prototype could help the company receive regulatory approval for much bigger projects in L.A. and beyond.
Keep reading Show less