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Jun 07, 2015 05:21 AM EDT

Sleep May Help Memory In Concussion Patients

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New research suggests that a good night's sleep helps to overcome memory deficits and other cognitive problems in concussion patients.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that found that individuals who had sustained a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) more than a year earlier had greater recall in a word memorization task after they had slept than when tested after an equal period awake.

"It is interesting to note that despite having atypical or disturbed sleep architecture, people in our study had intact sleep-dependent memory consolidation," Rebecca Spencer, who led the study, said in a statement. "Supporting opportunities to sleep following a concussion may be an important factor in recovery from cognitive impairments. The changes in sleep architecture we observed are in an optimal direction, that is, more rich, slow wave sleep and less light or Stage 1 sleep, is a shift in the positive direction."

For the study, researchers recruited 26 young adults 18 to 22 years old with a history of diagnosed TBI an average three to four years earlier from various causes, and 30 others with no history of brain injury. All slept more than six hours per night, took few naps, drank moderate amounts of coffee and alcohol and had no neurological disorders other than participants who had had TBI.

Participants learned a list of word pairs and their memory for them was assessed 12 hours later. Half in each group learned the word pairs in the morning and memory was tested in the evening, while half were tested in the evening and their memory was tested in the morning after sleep.

They found that for both those with a history of concussion and those without, recall was better following sleep than daytime wake.

"We know this is not just a matter of the time of day we tested them at as they were able to learn equally regardless of whether we taught them the task in the morning or the evening," Spencer said.

The findings are detailed in the early online edition of Frontier in Human Neuroscience.

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