Working memory (WM) performance, which is an important factor for determining problem-solving and reasoning ability, has been firmly believed to be constant. However, recent findings have demonstrated that WM performance has the potential to be improved by repetitive training. Although various skills are reported to be improved by sleep, the beneficial effect of sleep on WM performance has not been clarified. Here, we show that improvement in WM performance is facilitated by posttraining naturalistic sleep. A spatial variant of the n-back WM task was performed by 29 healthy young adults who were assigned randomly to three different experimental groups that had different time schedules of repetitive n-back WM task sessions, with or without intervening sleep. Intergroup and intersession comparisons of WM performance (accuracy and response time) profiles showed that n-back accuracy after posttraining sleep was significantly improved compared with that after the same period of wakefulness, independent of sleep timing, subject's vigilance level, or circadian influences. On the other hand, response time was not influenced by sleep or repetitive training schedules. The present study indicates that improvement in n-back accuracy, which could reflect WM capacity, essentially benefits from posttraining sleep.
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