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Psychol Sci. 2016 Oct;27(10):1321-1330. doi: 10.1177/0956797616659930. Epub 2016 Aug 20.

Relearn Faster and Retain Longer.

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1 Laboratoire d'Étude des Mécanismes Cognitifs, Équipe d'Accueil 3082, Université Lyon 2, Université de Lyon.
2 Bases, Corpus, Langage Lab, Department of Psychology, Unité Mixte de Recherche (UMR) 7320, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Université Nice Sophia Antipolis.
3 Department of Public Health, Institut des Sciences Pharmaceutiques et Biologiques, Équipe d'Accueil 4173, Université de Lyon.
4 Emerging Pathogens Laboratory - Fondation Mérieux, International Center for Infectious Diseases Research (CIRI), Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM) U111, UMR 5308, École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1.
5 Department of Psychology, Villanova University.
6 Central Integration of Pain (NeuroPain) Lab-Lyon Neuroscience Research Center, INSERM U1028, UMR 5292, CNRS, Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1.


Both repeated practice and sleep improve long-term retention of information. The assumed common mechanism underlying these effects is memory reactivation, either on-line and effortful or off-line and effortless. In the study reported here, we investigated whether sleep-dependent memory consolidation could help to save practice time during relearning. During two sessions occurring 12 hr apart, 40 participants practiced foreign vocabulary until they reached a perfect level of performance. Half of them learned in the morning and relearned in the evening of a single day. The other half learned in the evening of one day, slept, and then relearned in the morning of the next day. Their retention was assessed 1 week later and 6 months later. We found that interleaving sleep between learning sessions not only reduced the amount of practice needed by half but also ensured much better long-term retention. Sleeping after learning is definitely a good strategy, but sleeping between two learning sessions is a better strategy.


learning; relearning; repeated practice; sleep-dependent memory consolidation; sleep-wake cycle

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