If you've ever had to make a big decision and decided to "sleep on it," it turns out that was a good move. New research out of the University of Bristol measured changes in people's brain activity and responses before and after a nap and found that taking a quick snooze may be beneficial for the decision-making process.
Published in the Journal of Sleep Research, the study was designed to determine if taking a nap can actually help us process information unconsciously and how this might affect our behavior and reaction time. Turns out it does, by improving cognitive brain function and helping us process information that we're not even aware of.
Prior to this study, we did know that sleep helps with problem solving and helps us think clearer once we wake up, but we didn't know whether we had to consciously acknowledge that we needed help making a decision before falling asleep in order to reap the benefits.
According to these findings, even a short nap may help improve our ability to process information. Also, the research suggests that information we take in while we're awake could potentially be processed in a more meaningful way while we're asleep.
"The findings are remarkable in that they can occur in the absence of initial intentional, conscious awareness, by processing of implicitly presented cues beneath participants' conscious awareness," Dr. Liz Coulthard, consultant senior lecturer in dementia neurology at the University of Bristol Medical School: Translational Health Sciences, said in a statement. "Further research in a larger sample size is needed to compare if and how the findings differ between ages, and investigation of underlying neural mechanisms."
So the next time you're trying to make your mind up about something, you now have a scientifically valid excuse to put it off and take a nap.