Now what does it take to learn guitar or piano faster? A good night's sleep. New research has provided great insights into the role of sleep in learning motor skills requiring new movement sequences.
According to scientists at University of Montreal, the regions of the brain below the cortex play an important role as we train our bodies' movements and, critically, they interact more effectively after a night of sleep. 'After a night of sleep, we found that brain networks were more integrated, that is, interaction among these regions was greater when consolidation had occurred,' said Karen Debas, a neuropsychologist at University of Montreal. A network refers to multiple brain areas that are activated simultaneously.
According to Debas, a night of sleep seems to provide active protection of this network, which the passage of daytime does not provide. 'Moreover, only a night of sleep results in better performance of the task,' Debas added.
To get these results, researchers led by Julien Doyon from Institut universitaire de geriatrie de Montreal Research Centre, taught participants a new sequence of piano-type finger movements on a box. The brains of the participants were observed using functional magnetic resonance imaging during their performance of the task before and after a period of sleep. The same test was performed by a control group at the beginning and end of the day, without a period of sleep. They observed improved performance of the task after a night of sleep and not the simple passage of daytime.
The findings could lead us to better understand the mechanisms that take place during sleep and ensure better interaction between key regions of the brain, researchers concluded.
Here are some tips that can help you sleep better
Set a seven days-a-week schedule: Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time naturally, including holidays. Choose a time that's a minimum of eight hours before you need to wake up and follow it for one week straight. If you still feel tired you need an earlier bedtime (try just 15 to 30 minutes more). Once you can get up in the morning alarm-free and feel alert most of the day, you've hit it just right.
Dim your devices: Many are addicted to checking social networking sites before sleeping. But the emitted light of the device is a problem. Avoid any electronics at least one hour before bed so that you don't need the sleep hormone.
Don't sleep in: The most important thing about establishing a healthy sleep pattern is to wake up on time.
Nap strategically: A mid-day snooze often helps in optimising alertness, productivity and creativity.
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