While recent reports have suggested taking naps during the day could be a sign of impending dementia, mental refreshment does remain vital for cognitive health, report psychologists.

In an article to be published in the journal Psychological Science, psychological scientist Michaela Dewar and her colleagues show that memory can be boosted by taking a brief 'wakeful rest' after learning something verbally new and that memory lasts not just immediately but over a longer term.

wakeful resting memory

"Our findings support the view that the formation of new memories is not completed within seconds," says Dewar, in a statement.

"Indeed our work demonstrates that activities that we are engaged in for the first few minutes after learning new information really affect how well we remember this information after a week."

Worried about Alzheimer's? Take a look at these lifestyle changes you can make...

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  • Lifestyle Changes To Help Prevent Dementia

  • Drink Decaffeinated Coffee

    A study at Mount Sinai School of Medicine found that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/02/01/decaffeinated-coffee-preserves-memory-diabetes_n_1246240.html" target="_hplink">decaffeinated coffee improves the brain's energy metabolism - linked to cognitive decline</a> - in those with Type 2 diabetes. "This is the first evidence showing the potential benefits of decaffeinated coffee preparations for both preventing and treating cognitive decline caused by type 2 diabetes, ageing, and/ or neurodegenerative disorders," said lead researcher, Dr Giulio Maria Pasinett.

  • Play Brain-Teasing Games

    Everyday <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/12/01/puzzles-and-exercise-help-beat-dementia-symptoms_n_1122502.html" target="_hplink">games, puzzles and tasks were able to postpone decline in cognitive function and the ability to carry out everyday tasks, in dementia patients, for at least a year</a>, according to research from the University of Erlangen in Germany, published in the journals BMC Medicine.

  • Eat Less

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/12/20/eat-less-remember-more-and-other-memory-boosters_n_1160584.html" target="_hplink">Eating fewer calories could help boost memory and cognitive function</a>, according to a study at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome. Researchers hope to mimic the same effect with a drug in the future, bringing hope to Alzheimer's sufferers as well as those suffering from injury-related memory loss.

  • Eat Fish

    Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre and School of Medicine found that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/11/30/eating-fish-protects-against-alzheimers_n_1120156.html" target="_hplink">people who ate baked or grilled fish regularly reduced their risk of developing Alzheimer's</a>. Reseracher Cyrus Raji said: "The results showed that people who consumed baked or broiled (grilled) fish at least one time per week had better preservation of grey matter volume on MRI in brain areas at risk for Alzheimer's disease."

  • Play The Wii Fit

    <a href="http://lifestyle.aol.co.uk/2012/01/17/why-a-wii-workout-could-be-better-than-the-gym-for-over-50s/" target="_hplink">Working out using virtual games such as the Wii Fit could slow cognitive decline in the over 50s</a>, researchers from Union College in the US found. Participants aged between 58 and 99 were given a 3D exercise game to play. Compared to the control group who were asked to use a regular exercise bike, the 'cybercycle' group had a 23% decrease in advancement of mild cognitive impairment and showed improved 'executive function'.

  • Do The Seven-Step Plan

    A study in The Lancet Neurology suggest that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/07/19/new-study-shows-seven-way_n_901934.html" target="_hplink">3m cases of Alzheimer's across the world could be prevented in seven simple ways</a>. The report recommends quitting smoking, increasing physical activity, controlling your blood pressure and diabetes risk factors as well as managing depression and obesity to help combat the disease.

In two separate experiments, a total of thirty-three normally aging adults between the ages of 61 and 87 were told two short stories and told to remember as many details as possible.

Immediately afterward, they were asked to describe what happened in the story. Then they were given a 10-minute delay that consisted either of wakeful resting or playing a spot-the-difference game on the computer.

During the wakeful resting portion, participants were asked to just rest quietly with their eyes closed in a darkened room for 10 minutes while the experimenter left to "prepare for the next test."

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Participants could daydream or think about the story, or go through their grocery lists. It didn't matter what happened while their eyes were closed, only that they were undistracted by anything else and not receiving any new information.

When participants played the spot-the-difference game, they were presented with picture pairs on a screen for 30 seconds each and were instructed to locate two subtle differences in each pair and point to them. The task was chosen because it required attention but, unlike the story, it was nonverbal.

In one study, the participants were asked to recall both stories half an hour later and then a full week later. Participants remembered much more story material when the story presentation had been followed by a period of wakeful resting.

Dewar explains that there is growing evidence to suggest that the point at which we experience new information is at a very early stage of memory formation.

What does your walking style say about you?

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  • Rhythm

    Researchers notes changes to stride time and cadence.

  • Pace

    There could be changes to stride length and velocity.

  • Phases

    Has the amount of time you spend on one or both feet changed?

  • Variability

    How does your walking style vary to others?

  • Base of Support

    Has your step width and stride width changed?

  • Tandem

    How many errors do you make in a 'tandem walk' (where the heel of your front foot is placed directly touching the toes of your back foot)?

  • Turn

    Are you aware of any variation to the amount of time and steps you need to turn around?

"Further neural processes have to occur after this stage for us to be able to remember this information at a later point in time," she says.

We now live in a world where we are bombarded by new information and it crowds out recently acquired information.

The process of consolidating memories takes a little time and the most important things that it needs are peace and quiet.

Too often our memory starts acting like a particularly porous sieve: all the important fragments that should be caught and preserved somehow just disappear.

So armed with pencils and bolstered by caffeine, legions of adults, especially older adults, tackle crossword puzzles, acrostics, Sudoku and a host of other activities designed to strengthen their flagging memory muscles, Dewar points out, in a statement.

But maybe all they really need to do to cement new learning is to sit and close their eyes for a few minutes.