A daytime nap containing solely non-REM sleep enhances declarative but not procedural memory

Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2006 Sep;86(2):241-7. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2006.03.005. Epub 2006 May 2.


The specialized role that sleep-specific brain physiology plays in memory processing is being rapidly clarified with a greater understanding of the dynamic, complex, and exquisitely orchestrated brain state that emerges during sleep. Behaviorally, the facilitative role of non-REM (NREM) sleep (primarily slow wave sleep) for declarative but not procedural memory performance in humans has been demonstrated in a number of nocturnal sleep studies. However, subjects in these studies were tested after periods of sleep that contained REM sleep in addition to NREM sleep, and comparison wake groups were subjected to mild sleep deprivation. To add some clarity to the findings of these nocturnal studies, we assessed performance on declarative and procedural memory tasks following a daytime training-retest interval containing either a short nap that included NREM without REM sleep, or wakefulness. Consistent with previous findings we show that, after a comparatively brief sleep episode, subjects that take a nap improve more on a declarative memory task than subjects that stay awake, but that improvement on a procedural memory task is the same regardless of whether subjects take a nap or remain awake. Slow wave sleep was the only sleep parameter to correlate positively with declarative memory improvement. These findings are discussed with reference to the general benefits of napping and within the broader context of a growing literature suggesting a role for NREM-specific physiology for the processing of declarative memory.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology*
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mathematics
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Reference Values
  • Sleep Stages / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Verbal Learning / physiology*
  • Wakefulness