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Mon, June 24

Napping helps youngsters with memory consolidation

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

Is it true that napping can improve memory for things learned prior to the nap? I am a college student and find I do much better on tests when I have napped after learning the material that day.

A: Yes, there are several studies showing that naps can improve memory consolidation. In most cases, a 90 minute nap was best because both deep and REM (dream sleep) seem to be needed for consolidation. Unfortunately, a recent study showed less effectiveness of naps in promoting memory consolidation in older adults. This may be because deep sleep decreases as we age. In one study published this month in the journal Sleep, those older than 53 did not show as much benefit when compared to younger adults. The younger adults showed more deep sleep during naps.

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

I am an overweight truck driver. I have been told by friends in the business I will probably have to have a sleep study after my next physical. I am wondering what the indications are.

A: The latest recommendation from the Academy of Sleep Medicine to the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) is that drivers with a BMI (body mass index) of 40, or with a BMI of 33 plus hypertension or diabetes should be screened for sleep apnea. Studies show that those drivers with sleep apnea are twice as likely to be involved in accidents. Most importantly, after one week of therapy, their risk returned to normal, as did their performance on driving simulators.

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

I am 58 years old and have trouble falling and staying asleep. I do not exercise other than walking to the mailbox or at Walmart. A buddy of mine says that when he started exercising he slept better than he had in years. What do you think?

A: I think your friend is giving you very good advice. Many studies have shown that those of us who exercise fall asleep sooner and stay asleep longer. In fact, a recent study showed that morning exercise was the most beneficial. Therefore, I would first discuss this with you healthcare provider and if exercise is safe I would recommend you start slowly and work your way up. I think you will be quite pleased with the positive effects it has on your sleep and on your well-being in general.

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

Is it true that sleep apnea is common in stroke patients? Even more important, can it cause a stroke? My dad had a stroke and my mom says he snores and stops breathing in his sleep.

A: Yes, in fact a study published this month in the journal Sleep Medicine found that 78 percent of a large group of stroke patients had sleep apnea. We know that sleep apnea can affect the cerebral circulation in many negative ways. We also know that untreated, it can increase the rate of recurrence and inhibit recovery. The authors concluded, and I agree, that stroke victims should be screened carefully for sleep apnea.

Dr. Robert Rosenberg, board-certified sleep medicine specialist, will answer readers’ questions by incorporating them in future columns. Contact him through the form at or via mail at the Sleep Disorders Center of Prescott Valley, 3259 N. Windsong Drive, Prescott Valley, AZ 86314.

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