days after the information is taken in. Sleep’s effect is particularly evident in the effort and attention that are needed to perform a difficult sound-based task—the effort is reduced and the person is better able to pay attention to the sound stimulus.

Learning a new language is a difficult task that depends on sleep. It involves the acquisition of several different skills, including the ability to articulate a word in the same way that you hear it, make proper word choices, and remember the new vocabulary. These fact-based skills, and other skills involved with learning a language, have been shown to improve with both REM and slow wave sleep—and are critical to your teen’s academic performance. They’re also key to her learning the lines for the school play, remembering the words or music to a favorite song, and playing a passage on the guitar or piano.

Visual Learning

Your ability to discriminate visually also improves with sleep; studies have shown that sight-based skills improve through sleep but do not improve over the same number of hours of wakefulness. In a study of participants’ ability to discriminate among textures, it was found that more and different brain regions were activated during sleep than during a similar time period of wakefulness—and that the participants who slept performed the tasks more successfully the next day.

Postsleep visual-learning improvement is something you can see for yourself—and your teen can see it with you. Find a book of word search puzzles or look for some online (the Web site offers a number of puzzles you can try, on such topics as cinema/TV, sports, the English language, science, and music). To work the puzzles, look for words that are hidden in the grid of letters. Words will be found going up, down, forward, backward, and diagonally, and in some puzzles a letter will be part of two or more words.

Once you locate a puzzle, see how many words you can find. Then get a good night’s sleep and try it again the next day. Over a several-day period, with plenty of rest, you’ll most likely find that you do better and better and better.

You can also test sleep’s positive visual-learning effect by doing

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement