Sleep - The Next Best Thing To Practice

Posted on June 8, 2015

The more well-known sleep state known as REM (Rapid Eye Movement) is the dreammaker that tries to put our day’s activities into the context of our existing memories. But first, our brain enters a deeper phase known as “slow-wave” sleep where embryonic neural networks solidify the new motor skills and knowledge learned earlier.

In an experiment last year, Masako Tamaki, a postdoctoral neuroscience researcher at Brown University, tried to pinpoint where in the brain these changes happen. "We were trying to figure out which part of the brain is doing what during sleep, independent of what goes on during wakefulness,” Tamaki explained. “We were trying to figure out the specific role of sleep."

They recruited 15 volunteers to learn a complicated keyboard sequence, similar to a piano piece. Baseline sleep habits and data were captured for three nights prior to the start of the training. Nine of the test subjects were taught the new keyboard motor skill then allowed to take a 3 hour nap, while the other six volunteers learned the new task but were required to stay awake. Both groups were then tested again on what they learned.

Letting the first group sleep on it gave their brains a chance to set the new skill in place, ready for better recall. They performed significantly better on the keyboard test than those that stayed awake.

Athletes at all levels are beginning to appreciate the power of sleep. Dr. Charles Czeisler, Director of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard University and a sleep consultant to multiple NBA and NHL teams, recommends to coaches and parents that the night of sleep after, not before, an intense training or game is the most important to long-term skill development.

Category(s):Child Development

Source material from Sports Are 80 Percent Mental

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