Hit the books; then hit the pillow. That will help the brain lock in what you learned. Even naps are beneficial, according to a Harvard study in which subjects who took a 90-minute snooze after learning a task performed 50 percent better over a 24-hour period than the napless group.
"Sleep after learning helps solidify memory," says Susumu Tonegawa, PhD, a Nobel Prize-winning professor of biology and neuroscience at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT. According to animal studies, when you perform a task, the brain cells fire in a certain sequence. If you then fall asleep, the same cells automatically fire in an identical sequence without being distracted or disrupted by incoming visual stimuli. That, Tonegawa says, "solidifies the synapses, which in turn helps to strengthen the information as a memory."