Sleep-dependent learning: a nap is as good as a night

  title={Sleep-dependent learning: a nap is as good as a night},
  author={Sara C. Mednick and Ken Nakayama and Robert Stickgold},
  journal={Nature Neuroscience},
The learning of perceptual skills has been shown in some cases to depend on the plasticity of the visual cortex and to require post-training nocturnal sleep. We now report that sleep-dependent learning of a texture discrimination task can be accomplished in humans by brief (60– 90 min) naps containing both slow-wave sleep (SWS) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. This nap-dependent learning closely resembled that previously reported for an 8-h night of sleep in terms of magnitude, sleep-stage… 

A Role for Non-Rapid-Eye-Movement Sleep Homeostasis in Perceptual Learning

It is concluded that SWA is an important determinant of sleep-dependent gains in perceptual performance, a finding that directly implicates processes of sleep homeostasis in learning.

Daytime naps improve motor imagery learning

Interestingly, the results revealed that both short and long naps resulted in similar delayed performance gains, which might suggest that the presence of slow wave and rapid eye movement sleep does not provide additional benefits for the sleep-dependent motor skill consolidation following MI practice.

Slow wave sleep during a daytime nap is necessary for protection from subsequent interference and long-term retention

A daytime nap containing solely non-REM sleep enhances declarative but not procedural memory

The Impact of Visual Perceptual Learning on Sleep and Local Slow-Wave Initiation

An example of local sleep is provided in which local initiation of SWs during NREM sleep predicts later skill improvement and foreshadows locally enhanced neural signals the next day, possibly by promoting synaptic plasticity.

Offline processing of memories induced by perceptual visual learning during subsequent wakefulness and sleep: A behavioral study.

A beneficial effect of sleep on coarse orientation discrimination is suggested and further studies are needed to characterize the neural correlates of this perceptual learning and the offline consolidation of perceptual memory.

Sleep is more than rest for plasticity in the human cortex.

The results indicate that sleep is more than a state of reduced stimulus interference, but that sleep-specific brain activity restores performance by actively refining cortical plasticity.

Sleep facilitates long-term face adaptation

It is shown that the integration of adaptation-dependent long-term shifts in neural function is facilitated by sleep, and a new function of sleep in cognition is revealed that is qualitatively different from the effects of reduced visual interference known as ‘storage’.



Dependence on REM sleep of overnight improvement of a perceptual skill.

Performance of a basic visual discrimination task improved after a normal night's sleep, indicating that a process of human memory consolidation, active during sleep, is strongly dependent on REM sleep.

Visual Discrimination Task Improvement: A Multi-Step Process Occurring During Sleep

The results suggest that, in the case of this visual discrimination task, both SWS and REM are required to consolidate experience-dependent neuronal changes into a form that supports improved task performance.

Early sleep triggers memory for early visual discrimination skills

It is suggested that procedural memory formation is prompted by slow-wave sleep-related processes, only after periods of early sleep have occurred and late REM sleep may promote memory formation at a second stage.

Visual discrimination learning requires sleep after training

Findings that subjects show no improvement when retested the same day as training demonstrates that sleep within 30 hours of training is absolutely required for improved performance.

The restorative effect of naps on perceptual deterioration

It is found that with repeated, within-day testing, perceptual thresholds actually increased progressively across the four test sessions, and performance deterioration was prevented.

The time course of learning a visual skill

Here it is conjecture that some types of perceptual experience trigger permanent neural changes in early processing stages of the adult visual system, which may take many hours to become functional.

Maintenance of alertness and performance by a brief nap after lunch under prior sleep deficit.

It is suggested that under prior sleep deficit, a 15-min nap during post-lunch rest maintains subsequent alertness, performance, and autonomic function following a short sleep the preceding night, particularly in the mid-afternoon.

Neuronal plasticity that underlies improvement in perceptual performance.

The link between neuronal plasticity and performance was explored by recording the responses of directionally selective neurons in the visual cortex while rhesus monkeys practiced a familiar task involving discrimination of motion direction, which suggests that improved psychophysical performance can result directly from increased neuronal sensitivity within a sensory pathway.

Greater plasticity in lower-level than higher-level visual motion processing in a passive perceptual learning task

Exposure to task-irrelevant motion improved sensitivity to the local motion directions within the stimulus, which are processed at low levels of the visual system, and this results indicate that when attentional influence is limited, lower-level motion processing is more receptive to long-term modification than higher- level motion processing in the visual cortex.

Where practice makes perfect in texture discrimination: evidence for primary visual cortex plasticity.

  • A. KarniD. Sagi
  • Biology, Psychology
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
  • 1991
This work reports remarkable long-term learning in a simple texture discrimination task where learning is specific for retinal input and suggests that learning involves experience-dependent changes at a level of the visual system where monocularity and the retinotopic organization of thevisual input are still retained and where different orientations are processed separately.