Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience

, Volume 18, Issue 6, pp 1105–1120 | Cite as

A daytime nap enhances visual working memory performance and alters event-related delay activity

  • Kevin J. MacDonald
  • Holly A. Lockhart
  • Alex C. Storace
  • Stephen M. Emrich
  • Kimberly A. CoteEmail author


Working memory (WM) is impaired following sleep loss and may be improved after a nap. The goal of the current study was to better understand sleep-related WM enhancement by: (1) employing a WM task that assesses the ability to hold and report visual representations as well as the fidelity of the reports on a fine scale, (2) investigating neurophysiological properties of sleep and WM capacity as potential predictors or moderators of sleep-related enhancement, and (3) exploring frontal and occipital event-related delay activity to index the neural processing of stimuli in WM. In a within-subjects design, 36 young adults (Mage = 20, 20 men, 16 women) completed a 300-trial, continuous-report task of visual WM following a 90-min nap opportunity and an equivalent period of wakefulness. Mixed-effect models were used to estimate the odds of successful WM reports and the fidelity of those reports. The odds of a successful report were approximately equal between nap and wake conditions for the start of the task, but by the end, the odds of success were 1.26 times greater in the nap condition. Successful WM reports were more accurate after a nap, independent of the time on task. Neither WM capacity nor any of the sleep variables measured were found to significantly moderate the nap effect on WM. Lastly, napping resulted in amplitude changes for frontal and occipital delay activity relative to the wake condition. The findings are discussed in relation to contemporary models of visual WM and the role of sleep in sustained attention.


Sleep Napping Working memory Attention 



The data were collected in the Brock University Sleep Research Laboratory, which is funded by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada. The authors wish to thank the editors and reviewers for their time in consideration of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentBrock UniversitySt. CatharinesCanada

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