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The power of dreams

Why do we have dreams? Scientists are discovering that they are essential to learning. A new study says naps can boost your ability to process and understand new information, especially if you dream about what you’re trying to learn. According to Robert Stickgold, senior author of the study and director of the Center for Sleep and Cognition at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, 99 college students were asked to navigate through a three-dimensional computer maze as quickly as possible. Half of the subjects were then allowed to nap for two hours, while the other half remained awake. Later that day, all 99 were retested on the maze.

Nappers who reported dreaming about an aspect of the task improved tenfold in their maze-navigating abilities compared to those who napped but did not dream about it and those who remained awake. Dreams are a clear indication that the sleeping brain is working on memories at multiple levels, including ways that will directly improve performance, says Stickgold.


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