hero image
Rebecca Spencer - University of Massachusetts Amherst. Amherst, MA, US

Rebecca Spencer Rebecca Spencer

Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences | University of Massachusetts Amherst


Rebecca Spencer is one of the nation's leading researchers exploring the relationship between sleep and brain function.


Expertise (5)

Behavioral Neuroscience

Sleep Memory and Learning


Learning and Memory

Sleep and Learning


A highly sought expect leading expert on the of the relationship between sleep, memory and learning and how these change across the life span, Rebecca Spencer has appeared in publications ranging from the New York Time to PBS, the BBC, Netflix and Glamour magazine.

She leads the Somneurolab at UMass Amherst, where her research team uses a variety of techniques to
explore how the brain operates during sleep and how this processing affects daytime cognition..

Social Media






Dr. Rebecca Spencer - Sleep on it! Dr. Rebecca Spencer Why do we sleep? Dr. Rebecca Spencer on What Happens to Your Brain When it's Low on Sleep


Education (2)

Purdue University: Ph.D., Neuroscience

Hope College: B.A., Biology/Kinesiology

Media Coverage (11)

Do word games help you brain as you age?

WWLP  tv


Rebecca Spencer appears on a local TV program to discuss the role word games can play in helping one’s brain as they age

view more

Later school start times eyed to address youth mental health crisis

ABC News  tv


Rebecca Spencer comments about the possibility of pushing school start times back later in the morning in an effort to improve youth mental health.

view more

How learning happens in the brains of sleeping babies

The Washington Post  print


Rebecca Spencer says children shouldn’t abandon the practice of napping as they get older. “Naps are awesome — they’re doing all of this important stuff for kids at a really critical time. Why stop napping when it’s so important?”

sleeping baby

view more

Yes, Naps Are Good for You — If You Do It Right

Discover magazine  print


“We've now found that sleep serves a lot of great functions. It's not surprising. That's why we spend so much time doing it,” says Rebecca Spencer, a sleep researcher at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “The long story short is there’s a lot of evidence that naps confer all of those same benefits.”

view more

How to Fall Asleep Faster, According to Powerful Women

Glamour  print


Use your own natural melatonin. How do you do that? By avoiding light in the last half hour to hour before bedtime. Of course, complete darkness may be hard to achieve, but dim the light on your phone or computer and turn off any extra lights in the room in the final hour before bed. Avoid watching tense movies, reading cliffhangers, checking work emails, or engaging in emotional “chats” before bed too. You’ll fall asleep faster. —Rebecca Spencer, neuroscience professor

view more

Naps don’t work for everyone. Genetic differences are why

The Washington Post  print


“If you are a regular napper, you can get these two forces [HSP and your circadian rhythm] into a good rhythm so they are nicely balanced,” says Rebecca Spencer, professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “The problem is few people nap so regularly.”

view more

NOVA: Mysteries of Sleep

PBS  tv


Rebecca Spencer talks about what exactly is happening in our brains when we sleep.

view more

Sleep Provides 'Remarkable Effects' On Protecting Our Memories, Says Rebecca Spencer

Boston Public Radio  radio


Rebecca Spencer, professor of psychological and brain sciences at UMass Amherst, joined Boston Public Radio on Wednesday to discuss her role in NOVA's newest special Mysteries of Sleep.

view more

Netflix Series: Babies

Netflix  online


Rebecca Sepncer is featured in an episode on Sleep in the Netflix series, "Babies," hiighliting her work studying the connection between sleep, learning and memory in young children.

Netflix: Babies

view more

TV Not a Good Sleep Aid for Young Kids

U.S. News & World Report  online


Researchers looked at 470 children aged 3 to 5 in Massachusetts and found that those who watched less than one hour of TV per day got 22 more minutes of sleep at night -- nearly 2.5 more hours per week -- than those who watched more TV on a daily basis. "Parents assumed that TV was helping their kids wind down. But it didn't work. Those kids weren't getting good sleep, and it wasn't helping them fall asleep better," said study author Rebecca Spencer, a neuroscientist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

view more

When the going gets tough, have a nap

BBC  online


hen her daughter was preschool-aged, Rebecca Spencer experienced something familiar to many parents and childminders: the power of a nap. Without it, her daughter would be giddy, grumpy, or both. Spencer, a neuroscientist focusing on sleep at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, wanted to investigate the science behind this anecdotal experience. “The observation of a lot of people is that a napless kid is emotionally dysregulated,” she says. “So that spurred us to ask this question of, ‘Do naps actually do something to process emotions?’”

view more

Publications (1)

Pandemic Sleep Advice Straight From Sleep Researchers


Kelly Baron, PhD, MPH, Brendan Duffy RPSGT CCSH, Michael Grandner, PhD, MTR, Jared Saletin, PhD, Rebecca Spencer, PhD, and John Hogenesch, PhD


In the age of coronavirus, sleep is more important — and more elusive — than ever. Sleep researchers are here to help.

view more