Sleep Quality Influences Subsequent Motor Skill Acquisition

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While the influence of sleep on motor memory consolidation has been extensively investigated, its relation to initial skill acquisition is less well understood. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the influence of sleep quality and quantity on subsequent motor skill acquisition in young adults without sleep disorders. Fifty-five healthy adults (mean age = 23.8 years; 34 women) wore actigraph wristbands for 4 nights, which provided data on sleep patterns before the experiment, and then returned to the laboratory to engage in a motor sequence learning task (explicit 5-item finger sequence tapping task). Indicators of sleep quality and quantity were then regressed on a measure of motor skill acquisition (Gains Within Training, GWT). Wake After Sleep Onset (WASO; i.e., the total amount of time the participants spent awake after falling asleep) was significantly and negatively related to GWT. This effect was not because of general arousal level, which was measured immediately before the motor task. Conversely, there was no relationship between GWT and sleep duration or self-reported sleep quality. These results indicate that sleep quality, as assessed by WASO and objectively measured with actigraphy before the motor task, significantly impacts motor skill acquisition in young healthy adults without sleep disorders.

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