How wakeful rest can boost your memory

Wakeful rest can serve to boost a person's memory, new research has suggested. To appear in the journal Psychological Science, a publication of the Association for Psychological Science, the study found people can make their new learning stick by sitting still and closing their eyes for a few moments.

Psychological Scientist Michaela Dewar and colleagues discovered this method is particularly useful when individuals learn something that is verbally new to them.

As a result of these moments of wakeful rest, memory can not only be boosted immediately, it is also improved over the longer term, the team discovered.

Ms Dewar said the findings lend backing to the notion that memories are not simply formed within seconds, adding: "Activities that we are engaged in for the first few minutes after learning new information really affect how well we remember this information after a week."

The investigators noted people need a little peace and quiet to consolidate memories, especially in an age where they are constantly bombarded with new information.

Chartered Psychologist Gary Fitzgibbon says:

"The idea that memory failure can be explained because recently acquired information is crowded out by new information makes a lot of sense in terms of explaining memory failures generally.  In my work coaching dyslexic adults (generally between the ages of 25 and 50) to improve their memory functioning one of the key skills that I focus on is managing new information so it doesn’t crowd out recently acquired information; I always emphasise the importance of taking a short time-out after learning something new to allow a consolidation process to take place.

"I usually advise clients that they should do something relaxing, but I’m persuaded that wakeful resting might be the most effective activity; it seems intuitively obvious that relaxing briefly with the eyes closed would reduce to a minimum new information and therefore the crowding out effect would also be minimised. Having a piece of research that can be easily and safely introduced into a coaching environment is always exciting and I’m looking forward to exploring practical applications of Dewar’s work."