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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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Department of Psychiatry, Center for Sleep and Cognition, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


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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