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J Sleep Res. 2009 Sep;18(3):304-12. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2869.2009.00740.x.

The impact of sleep duration and subject intelligence on declarative and motor memory performance: how much is enough?

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1
Department of Psychiatry, Center for Sleep and Cognition, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215, USA. mtucker1@bidmc.harvard.edu

Abstract

Recent findings clearly demonstrate that daytime naps impart substantial memory benefits compared with equivalent periods of wakefulness. Using a declarative paired associates task and a procedural motor sequence task, this study examined the effect of two lengthier durations of nocturnal sleep [either a half night (3.5 h) or a full night (7.5 h) of sleep] on over-sleep changes in memory performance. We also assessed whether subject intelligence is associated with heightened task acquisition and, more importantly, whether greater intelligence translates to greater over-sleep declarative and procedural memory enhancement. Across both tasks, we demonstrate that postsleep performance gains are nearly equivalent, regardless of whether subjects obtain a half night or a full night of sleep. Remarkably, the over-sleep memory changes observed on both tasks are very similar to findings from studies examining performance following a daytime nap. Consistent with previous research, we also observed a strong positive correlation between amount of Stage 2 sleep and motor skill performance in the full-night sleep group. This finding contrasts with a highly significant correlation between spectral power in the spindle frequency band (12-15 Hz) and motor skill enhancement only in the half-night group, suggesting that sigma power and amount of Stage 2 sleep are both important for optimal motor memory processing. While subject intelligence correlated positively with acquisition and retest performance on both tasks, it did not correlate with over-sleep changes in performance on either task, suggesting that intelligence may not be a powerful modulator of sleep's effect on memory performance.

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