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Sleep Med Rev. 2010 Jun;14(3):167-77. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2009.10.006. Epub 2010 Jan 25.

Sleep and memory in healthy children and adolescents - a critical review.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Medical Center Freiburg, Hauptstrasse 5, 79104 Freiburg, Germany.


There is mounting evidence that sleep is important for learning, memory and the underlying neural plasticity. This article aims to review published studies that evaluate the association between sleep, its distinct stages and memory systems in healthy children and adolescents. Furthermore it intends to suggest directions for future research. A computerised search of the literature for relevant articles published between 1966 and March 2008 was performed using the keywords "sleep", "memory", "learn", "child", "adolescents", "adolescence" and "teenager". Fifteen studies met the inclusion criteria. Published studies focused on the impact of sleep on working memory and memory consolidation. In summary, most studies support the hypothesis that sleep facilitates working memory as well as memory consolidation in children and adolescents. There is evidence that performance in abstract and complex tasks involving higher brain functions declines more strongly after sleep deprivation than the performance in simple memory tasks. Future studies are needed to better understand the impact of a variety of variables potentially modulating the interplay between sleep and memory, such as developmental stage, socioeconomic burden, circadian factors, or the level of post-learning sensory and motor activity (interference). This line of research can provide valuable input relevant to teaching, learning and public health policy.

Copyright 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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