Not long ago we learned that daydreaming is the key to creativity, and now I’ve got even better news: napping makes you smarter! Or, according to Richard Restak’s new book, Think Smart: A Neuroscientist’s Prescription for Improving Your Brain’s Performance, at least it helps you learn much more quickly:

In an experiment testing finger dexterity, [Matthew P.] Walker taught student volunteers skilled finger movements similar to piano scales. After learning the movements half of the students took a sixty-to-ninety minute nap while the others remained awake and continued with their day. When retested later that same afternoon, those who napped did 16 percent better than those who did not nap.

A daytime power nap produces nearly as much off-line memory enhancement as a whole night of sleep,” Walker told me. in order to do this, the brain selectively increases brief bursts of electrical activity called “sleep spindles.” Walker believes that these spindles trigger chemical reactions within brain cells that “instruct”s pecific brain circuits to strengthen connections, and thereby enhance memory. [Emphasis added.]

This agrees with other research. As I noted in my review of John Medina’s Brain Rules last year,

NASA tests showed that a 26 minute nap improved pilot performance by a third, while a 45-minute nap boosted cognitive performance by a similar amount. [From NeuromarketingBrain Rules.]

So, there you have yet another excuse for your boss when you doze off at your desk… “Sleeping? No, I was enhancing my memory after that important presentation you gave!”