Rapid-eye-movement-sleep (REM) associated enhancement of working memory performance after a daytime nap

Esther Yuet Ying LAU, Mark Lawrence WONG, Kristy Nga Ting LAU, Florence Wai Ying HUI, Chia-huei TSENG

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33 Citations (Scopus)


The main objective was to study the impact of a daytime sleep opportunity on working memory and the mechanism behind such impact. This study adopted an experimental design in a sleep research laboratory. Eighty healthy college students (Age:17-23, 36 males) were randomized to either have a polysomnography-monitored daytime sleep opportunity (Nap-group, n=40) or stay awake (Wake-group, n=40) between the two assessment sessions. All participants completed a sleep diary and wore an actigraph-watch for 5 days before and one day after the assessment sessions. They completed the state-measurement of sleepiness and affect, in addition to a psychomotor vigilance test and a working memory task before and after the nap/wake sessions. The two groups did not differ in their sleep characteristics prior to and after the lab visit. The Nap-group had higher accuracy on the working memory task, fewer lapses on the psychomotor vigilance test and lower state-sleepiness than the Wake-group. Within the Nap-group, working memory accuracy was positively correlated with duration of rapid eye movement sleep (REM) and total sleep time during the nap. Our findings suggested that “sleep gain” during a daytime sleep opportunity had significant positive impact on working memory performance, without affecting subsequent nighttime sleep in young adult, and such impact was associated with the duration of REM. While REM abnormality has long been noted in pathological conditions (e.g. depression), which are also presented with cognitive dysfunctions (e.g. working memory deficits), this was the first evidence showing working memory enhancement associated with REM in daytime napping in college students, who likely had habitual short sleep duration but were otherwise generally healthy. Copyright © 2015 Lau et al.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0125752
JournalPLoS One
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2015


Lau, E. Y. Y., Wong, M. L., Lau, K. N. T., Hui, F. W. Y., & Tseng, C.-H. (2015). Rapid-eye-movement-sleep (REM) associated enhancement of working memory performance after a daytime nap. PLoS One, 10(5), e0125752. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0125752.


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