Researchers recently took a closer look at the brainwave pattern of fifteen sleeping volunteers. These individuals were earlier taught a sequential finger-tapping task, similar to playing piano. Results show that the volunteers performed much better when they had a good sleep.

During the first three nights of the study, all of the participants went to bed at a normal time. When they were tested the day after, they shown considerable amount of improvements. On the fourth day, they were taught the task on their left hand and only given three hours of sleep. They were then woken up to take the test. It was discovered that the participants were not able to produce as good results when they did not reach deep sleep. “The mechanisms of memory consolidations regarding motor memory learning were still uncertain until now. We were trying to figure out which part of the brain is doing what during sleep, independent of what goes on during wakefulness. We were trying to figure out the specific role of sleep,” Doctor Masako Tamaki, the study lead author.

According to another study in the Neuroscience, the increased speed and accuracy was related with changes in a region on the top-middle of the brain. Such brainwave changes will only take place when one is in deep sleep. “It’s an intensive activity for the brain to consolidate learning and so the brain may benefit from sleep perhaps because more energy is available or because distractions and new inputs are fewer,” explained Doctor Masako.

The 15 participants were also put through motor learning experiments. For the first three nights, they slept at their preferred timing, while going through brain scans. On the fourth night, participants also went through the same brain scans but were woken up before they went into deep sleep. After an hour, they performed the task. Six of them were also used as control and remained awake after learning the task. Four hours after, they performed the task. The findings suggest that those who were allowed to sleep managed to outperform those who remained awake. From this, scientists deduced that proper sleep benefits the brain as it enables more energy to be available and reduces the amount of distractions. For more of the study, you can read it here.

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