The Effect of Sleep Before or After Learning on Memory

Andrea Grosvenor, Leon C. Lack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Early studies in which it was found that learning followed by sleep was better remembered than learning followed by wakefulness were interpreted as giving support for the Interference Theory of Forgetting. More recent studies have shown better retention over the first half of the night's sleep (slow-wave sleep) than over the second half (REM sleep), and conclusions have been drawn that a Decay Theory of Forgetting is more strongly supported. Those studies, however, confounded the type of sleep following learning with sleep prior to learning. When prior sleep was controlled in the present study, there was no support for a first half-night sleep benefit, and contrary to Decay Theory, there was a second half-night benefit for high imagery material. The strong detrimental effect of sleep prior to learning was inconsistent with the Interference Theory of Forgetting and suggested, instead, the importance of the consolidation process for long-term memory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-167
Number of pages13
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1984


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