Attention students: Pulling an all-nighter is not the best way to prepare for a test.
New research from the University of Notre Dame shows that going to sleep shortly after learning new material helps improve learning and is the most beneficial way to recall recently presented material.
The study, published in the journal Public Library of Science ONE, is based on experiments involving 207 students who slept at least six hours per night.
Notre Dame Psychologist Jessica Payne and colleagues randomly assigned the students to study word pairings at 9 a.m. or 9 p.m., then return for testing on what they’d just learned 30 minutes, 12 hours or 24 hours later.
Researchers found students performed better after 12 hours -- following a night of sleep -- compared to those who took the tests after a day of wakefulness. Similarly, at the 24-hour retest, students who went to sleep right after their lessons did better than those who took the test after a full day of wakefulness.
"Our study confirms that sleeping directly after learning something new is beneficial for memory,” Payne said. “This means that it would be a good thing to rehearse any information you need to remember just prior to going to bed. In some sense, you may be 'telling' the sleeping brain what to consolidate."