Boost Your Memory By Dreaming

What happens when you dream?

A new study suggests that your dreams may be a way of telling you that your brain is hard at work consolidating recent memories, which in turn helps us to perform better on performance-related tasks.

Do Not Disturb: Sleeping Brain Hard At Work

Researchers from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School showed that your sleeping brain is working on memories at multiple levels, including ways that directly improve performance. The study was reported in a recent issue of Current Biology.

In a unique experiment, 99 subjects spent one hour training on a 3D “virtual maze task”. Following this initial training the subjects were assigned to either take a 90-minute nap or remain awake but in a quiet state. Five hours after the initial task, the subjects were re-tested. The results were quite striking.

Dreams Help With Memory Consolidation

The subjects who stayed awake showed no signs of improvement on the second test, even if they reported that they thought about the maze while awake. Similarly, the subjects who napped, but did not dream about the maze, showed little, if any, improvement when tested a second time. However, the subjects who napped and reported that they dreamed about the maze showed 10 times more improvement than the nappers who did not dream about the maze.

The researchers noted that the subjects who dreamed about the maze were not more motivated than the other subjects. In fact, these subjects performed relatively poorly during the initial training. It seems that sleep is necessary to consolidate information and the dreams are an outward reflection that the brain is busy with this task. Apparently, when you experience a new task, a series of events are set in place to allow the brain to consolidate and process memories.

The practical application? Be sure to get your rest, and dream, to assist your body in the process of incorporating and applying new information.