Studying for exams or a big presentation? Don’t forget to give it a rest … your brain, that is. New research shows that even a quick 10-minute break after learning can boost your memory—up to a week later.
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland asked healthy elderly men and women to listen to two stories, and remember the details later. After one story, participants rested with their eyes closed for 10 minutes in a dark room. After the other story, they looked for differences between two images, an activity meant to distract their minds.
In the study, published in Psychological Science, participants remembered details of the story just before the short rest, and the group that rested continued to remember these details a week later.
This isn’t the first study to connect rest or sleep with memory. Previous research has shown that people of all ages remember better when they rest between memorizing facts and recalling them. In this case, the 10-minute relaxation worked to boost memory for new verbal information.
The researchers suspect that the initial contact with facts—such as an all-night cramming session—is just the first part of memory formation. “Further neural processes have to occur after this stage for us to be able to remember this information at a later point in time,” study author Michaela Dewar told Time.
Next time you need to remember important details, be sure to schedule a quick break after studying. This is also a good excuse to shut your eyes during a coworker’s presentation.