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Positive impact of sleep on recall of multiplication facts

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-09-13, 14:59 authored by Jayne Spiller, Camilla Gilmore

This study tested the hypothesis that learning complex multiplication problems (e.g. 8 x 23 = 184) prior to sleep would benefit recall in adult participants compared with learning the problems prior to a period of wakefulness.

Method: This study used a within-participant design where all participants learnt complex multiplication problems in two conditions separated by one week. In one condition learning was before bed (sleep learning condition) and in the other condition learning was in the morning (wake learning condition). In each condition recall was tested approximately 10.5 hours later. Data were collected online from 77 participants.

Results: In the subset of the sample with ≥60% accuracy at the initial learning session (n= 37), the sleep learning condition participants had better recall compared with the wake learning condition. The equated to a moderate effect size. Regardless of initial levels of learning (n= 70) the same beneficial effect of sleep on recall was found with a small effect size.

Conclusions: This study has identified a beneficial effect of learning prior to sleep on recall of complex multiplication problems compared with learning these problems during the daytime. Future research should explore whether similar effects are observed with children learning simple multiplication facts.


British Academy-Leverhulme Small grant

Centre for Early Mathematics Learning

Economic and Social Research Council

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School of Psychology and Vision Science, University of Leicester


  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

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The Royal Society



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