• 06/04/2010
  • 12:31 pm
Siengsukon CF, Boyd LA. (2009) Does sleep promote motor learning? Implications for physical rehabilitation. Physical Therapy 89 (4): 370-383.


Clinical issues

This well referenced paper is written by two assistant research professors, the first from Kansas and the second from Vancouver. Evidence is presented relating to how sleep following motor skill training can enhance learning in young healthy individuals. Although most of the research in this area relates to young people there is mounting evidence that older people who are healthy, fail to demonstrate sleep-dependent off-line learning ( e.g. continued overnight improvements in motor skill that are not associated with additional physical practice) but individuals with brain damage, particularly after stroke, do benefit. In young healthy adults, sleep has shown to have an important role in motor learning and memory consolidation. Sleep between practice and retention testing resulted in a 20% overnight improvement in motor skill performance of a finger tapping task and a 33% improvement in a finger to thumb opposition task. A nap of 60 to 90 minutes was shown to be sufficient sleep to produce off-line improvements in motor performance. The paper discusses the possible other factors influencing memory consolidation such as which stage of memory formation is being considered and whether instruction is given. This paper includes detailed information about sleep architecture and memory and how this is affected in ageing and in pathology and hypothesises how this may be relevant in influencing motor learning. The concluding paragraphs discuss the clinical applications of the reviewed research and although highlights many unanswered questions summarizes with recommending that therapists should encourage sleep following therapy sessions to promote off-line motor learning of the skills practiced during rehabilitation.