hero image
Sara Mednick - UC Irvine. Irvine, CA, US

Sara Mednick

Professor of Cognitive Sciences | UC Irvine


Sara Mednick is an expert in memory consolidation, sleep, aging and brain stimulation and author of “The Power of the Downstate.”



Sara Mednick Publication



loading image loading image loading image


Sara Mednick: Give it up for the down state -- sleep | Sara Mednick | TEDxUCRSalon Sara Mednick - New Faculty Fall 2018 Sara Mednick: UCR Sleep Researcher Discusses her Latest Discovery




Sara C. Mednick is Professor of Cognitive Sciences at the University of California, Irvine and author of the book, Take a Nap! Change Your Life. (Workman). She is passionate about understanding how the brain works through her research into sleep and cognition. Mednick’s seven-bedroom sleep lab at UCI works literally around-the-clock to discover methods for boosting cognition through a range of different interventions including napping, brain stimulation with electricity, sound and light, as well as pharmacological interventions. Additionally, her lab is interested in how sleep changes throughout the menstrual cycle and lifespan. Her science has been continuously federally funded (National Institute of Health, National Science Foundation, Department of Defense Office of Naval Research, DARPA). Mednick was awarded the Office Naval Research Young Investigator Award in 2015. Her research findings have been published in such leading scientific journals as Nature Neuroscience and The Proceedings from the National Academy of Science, and covered by all major media outlets. She received a BA from Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, in Drama/Dance. After college, her experience working in the psychiatry department at Bellevue Hospital in New York, inspired her to study the brain and how to make humans smarter through better sleep. She received a PhD in Psychology from Harvard University, and then completed a postdoc at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and UC San Diego.

Areas of Expertise (5)

Memory Consolidation




Cognitive Science

Education (2)

Harvard University: PhD, Psychology 2003

Bard College: BA, Drama/Dance 1994

Media Appearances (9)

You Deserve a Great Nap

The New York Times  online


The best time to nap is about six to eight hours after you wake up in the morning, said Sara Mednick, a professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine. … You may not fall asleep during your nap — or at least you may not think you have — and that’s OK, Dr. Mednick said. We are often “somewhat conscious” in the early stages of sleep, she said, but “it’s still good rest.” She pointed to a recent study that found that drifting into the lightest stage of sleep — a sort of twilight zone where your mind wanders in a dreamlike way — for even one minute during a 20-minute rest generated more creativity and better problem-solving in young adults.

view more

This Is the Best Time of Day to Nap for a Better Memory, Says a Neuroscientist

The Healthy - Reader's Digest  online


“Naps are for everyone but they can especially help older adults who are not sleeping well at night,” Sara Mednick, PhD, a professor of cognitive sciences at University of California, Irvine, adds. “Studies show significant benefits of naps for executive functioning and long term memory in older adults,” she says. … Dr. Mednick advises either taking a short 30-minute nap, or a 60- to 90-minute nap. … “For the best time to nap, I’d recommend six to seven hours after wake up time,” Dr. Mednick suggests, “which is usually 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.”

view more

The Art of the Power Nap — How to Sleep Your Way to Maximum Productivity

Entrepreneur  online


As Dr. Sara Mednick, [professor of cognitive science] at UC Irvine, told The Guardian, naps ideally fit neatly into our circadian rhythm (the 24-hour cycle of our bodies). The time when energy dips — body temperature decreases, cognitive processes are not as strong and you find yourself grabbing a cup of coffee — is a good time for a nap.

view more

People who nap at work have bigger brains, are more productive: research

New York Post  online


“We are a sleep-deprived people, which makes us more prone to accidents at work, lower levels of creativity and concentration, and higher levels of irritability,” Sara Mednick, Ph.D., [and professor] of the department of cognitive sciences at the University of California, Irvine, told the Guardian.

view more

Calls to make nap part of working day after latest study on brain benefits

The Guardian  online


Prof Sara Mednick, of the department of cognitive sciences at the University of California, Irvine, agreed. “We are a sleep-deprived people, which makes us more prone to accidents at work, lower levels of creativity and concentration, and higher levels of irritability,” she said. “Businesses providing a space to rest will reduce the costs that incur from the lost time and the fatigue-related errors. It also gives the higher-ups the chance to acknowledge the challenges of the 24/7 culture and come up with top-down solutions that encourage workers to take care of themselves in and out of work, which goes a long way in terms of retention.”

view more

Sleep and Creativity

Chasing Sleep  radio


In this episode of “Chasing Sleep”, hosts Katie Lowes and Adam Shapiro dive into the connection between sleep and creativity, exploring the value of quality sleep to the creative process. Sara C. Mednick, author of "The Power of the Downstate" and "Take a Nap! Change Your Life" [and UCI professor of cognitive science] explains how specific sleep phases like REM sleep influence physiological processes and brain waves to enhance creativity. “In REM sleep, you actually have this brain state where your creativity can flower – you can make these wild associations,” says Mednick.

view more

Want to Learn Better and Remember More? Try This, Says a Cognitive Neuroscientist

Inc  online


Do you need to learn a lot of new material, retain information for the long term, or find creative solutions to problems in your business? Taking a nap might help, according to [Professor] Sara C. Mednick, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of California, Irvine, and author of The Hidden Power of the Downstate. Research suggests that a nap may improve your memory, help you better retain information that you've recently learned, and even spark your creativity, she explains in a TED animated video about napping.

view more

The Power of the Downstate, Optimizing Sleep and Recovery l Sara Mednick, PhD

BrainSPORT Podcast  online


On this episode of the UCLA BrainSPORT Podcast, Adel discusses Sleep and the Downstate with UC Irvine cognitive [professor] and sleep neuroscientist and author of The Power of the Downstate, Dr. Sara Mednick. The pair start by discussing the downstate and why it is so important for our day to day performance and optimizing recovery. Their discussion covers methods to enhance recovery including timing of exercise and meals. They then go on to discuss sleep and how it relates to our performance, risk of dementia, and much more. They also discuss methods of promoting sleep and the influence of certain substances on sleep, including stimulants.

view more

Study Challenges Stereotype Linking Menstrual Cycles to Negative Mood, Blames Poor Sleep Instead

Sleep Review  online


Menstrual cycles alone do not have a direct effect on mood in healthy young women with regular cycles, finds a new University of California, Irvine (UCI)-led study that points to sleep as the culprit instead. “There is a general belief that women are highly affected by their menstrual cycle…” says lead author Alessandra Shuster, UCI cognitive sciences graduate student and researcher in the Sleep and Cognition Lab. “But there hasn’t been a lot of research to back up that belief .…” “This is important as more than 90% of American women report only mild to moderate PMS, so we can generalize these results to the majority of women,” says co-author Sara Mednick, UCI cognitive sciences professor and director of the Sleep and Cognition Lab.

view more

Articles (5)

New directions in sleep and memory research: the role of autonomic activity

Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences

Lauren N Whitehurst, Pin-Chun Chen, Mohsen Naji, Sara C Mednick

2020 Over the last 100 years there has been a proliferation of research into the mechanisms of sleep that support cognition. Majority of these studies point to electroencephalographic features during sleep that are linked to plasticity and support valuable cognitive skills, like long-term memory.

view more

The impact of psychostimulants on sustained attention over a 24-h period


Lauren N Whitehurst, Sara Agosta, Roberto Castaños, Lorella Battelli, Sara C Mednick

2019 The off-label use of psychostimulants is a growing trend in healthy adults with many turning to these medications to increase alertness, attentional focus, and to help them study. However, the empirical literature on the efficacy of these medications for cognitive enhancement is controversial and the longer-term impact of these drugs on health and cognitive processing has not been thoroughly examined.

view more

Timing between Cortical Slow Oscillations and Heart Rate Bursts during Sleep Predicts Temporal Processing Speed, but Not Offline Consolidation

Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

Mohsen Naji, Giri P Krishnan, Elizabeth A McDevitt, Maxim Bazhenov, Sara C Mednick

2019 Central and autonomic nervous system activities are coupled during sleep. Cortical slow oscillations (SOs;

view more

Morning stimulant administration reduces sleep and overnight working memory improvement

Behavioural Brain Research

Tenzin Tselha, Lauren N Whitehurst, Benjamin D Yetton, Tina T Vo, Sara C Mednick

2019 The goal of cognitive enhancement is to improve mental functions using interventions including cognitive training, brain stimulation and pharmacology. Indeed, psychostimulants, commonly used for cognitive enhancement purposes, while preventing sleep, have been shown to increase working memory (WM) and attention.

view more

Midday napping in children: associations between nap frequency and duration across cognitive, positive psychological well-being, behavioral, and metabolic health outcomes


Jianghong Liu, Rui Feng, Xiaopeng Ji, Naixue Cui, Adrian Raine, Sara C Mednick

2019 Poor sleep and daytime sleepiness in children and adolescents have short- and long-term consequences on various aspects of health. Midday napping may be a useful strategy to reduce such negative impacts. The effect of habitual napping on a wide spectrum of cognitive, behavioral, psychological, and metabolic outcomes has not been systematically investigated.

view more