Volunteers were asked to memorise the layout of a 3D computer maze so they could find their way around it several hours later.
It was found that those who dreamt about a new task tend to perform it better on waking than those who don’t sleep or dream.
Those who were allowed to have a nap during the study found their way to the landmark quicker than those who had not slept. It is thought that the reason for this is due to parts of the unconscious mind working hard to process the task information whilst we are sleeping.
Authors of the study Dr Robert Stickgold of Harvard Medical School and Dr Erin Wamsley believe that dreams may be an indication that the brain is working on the same problem at many levels and have said the study suggests our non conscious brain works on the things it deems as most important.
The scientists say that this could pave the way for an improvement in learning and memory, for example students might be better studying before bedtime, or taking a nap after a study period.
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