April – To students across the country, it’s a month of unwanted studying, cramming, and writing exams. It’s also a month when sleep gets put on the back-burner. There is promising news for those looking for a new technique to boost their memory, and it doesn’t involve pulling an all-nighter: A new study has found that exposure to sounds at certain times during sleep can boost memory formation.
Jan Born, a researcher at the University of Tubingen explained that previous research has found that memory consolidation occurs in sleep when brain waves are generating a slow oscillating rhythm. The new study, published in the journal Neuron, found that if a person is exposed to sound stimulation that is in sync with this rhythm, the oscillations become amplified and last longer – and hence memory is strengthened.
The researchers monitored 11 participants while they slept on various nights. When exposed to stimulating sounds that were in sync with the brain’s slow oscillating rhythms, the participants were better able to recall word associations they had learned the evening prior.
There is currently no commercial device that can mimic this study, however the research does offer interesting insight that could potentially lead to a commercial innovation.
While you may not be able to benefit from this study, yet at least, what you can do is make an effort to get a good night’s sleep–especially when you’re trying to remember a day’s worth of studying. Several studies have linked sleep disruption to impaired memory, as per a previous blog posting: https://medsleep.wordpress.com/2011/08/24/interrupted-sleep-may-impair-memory/
Do your memory a favour and get the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. And you never know, one day, you may be able to sleep “soundly” with a sleep-synced-sound-emitting device.