Sleep-dependent learning: a nap is as good as a night

Nat Neurosci. 2003 Jul;6(7):697-8. doi: 10.1038/nn1078.


The learning of perceptual skills has been shown in some cases to depend on the plasticity of the visual cortex and to require post-training nocturnal sleep. We now report that sleep-dependent learning of a texture discrimination task can be accomplished in humans by brief (60- 90 min) naps containing both slow-wave sleep (SWS) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. This nap-dependent learning closely resembled that previously reported for an 8-h night of sleep in terms of magnitude, sleep-stage dependency and retinotopic specificity, and it was additive to subsequent sleep-dependent improvement, such that performance over 24 h showed as much learning as is normally seen after twice that length of time. Thus, from the perspective of behavioral improvement, a nap is as good as a night of sleep for learning on this perceptual task.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Discrimination Learning / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Perception / physiology
  • Reaction Time
  • Rest
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Stages / physiology
  • Sleep, REM / physiology*
  • Task Performance and Analysis