It's already been established that sleep is beneficial for memory performance, but new research appearing in Current Biology shows that dreaming might also help people complete tasks.
During a study, researchers at Harvard asked 99 college students to memorize a complex computer maze and then had half the participants take a 90-minute snooze. As reported by CNN.com:
When the students were given the maze test again five hours later, the nappers did better than the students who had stayed awake, even those who had reviewed the maze in their heads. However, the nappers who dreamed about the maze -- one described being lost in a bat cave -- performed 10 times better than the nappers who didn't.
According to lead author Robert Stickgold, PhD, dreaming is likely beneficial because "when you dream, your brain is trying to look at connections that you might not think of or notice when [you're] awake." And other sleep experts, including Stanford's Rafael Pelayo, MD, said the findings offer further evidence of the importance of sleep for test-takers:
"Instead of cramming, study intensely, catch a nap, and then maybe do some more studying," he says. "A nap may be a good tool to enhance your ability to remember information."