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Sara Mednick - UC Irvine. Irvine, CA, US

Sara Mednick 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



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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 (14)

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.

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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.

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What Is Biphasic Sleep and Is It Healthy for Humans?

Good Housekeeping  online


In fact, humans are the only mammals who routinely sleep only at night, says Sara Mednick, Ph.D., professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine, and author of The Power of the Downstate: Recharge Your Life Using Your Body’s Own Restorative Systems. “All other animals tend to nap during the day and then get up in the middle of the night,” she says. "The idea that we should be sleeping only during the night and not during the day is more modern, and maybe not as natural to our actual circadian rhythm,” she adds.

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Is 6 Hours Of Sleep Really Enough? Science Has A Very Clear Answer

Fatherly  online


“Sleep is one of our basic functions, and it is important because being awake is very energy-consuming, and it's very stressful,” says Sara Mednick, Ph.D., a researcher at the Mednick Sleep and Cognition Lab at the University of California, Irvine. “Sleep helps us learn what we've experienced during the daytime, keep the ideas that we want and let go of a lot of information that we don't need, and then make connections between our new experiences and what we know about the world.”

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Naps: A user's guide

BBC Science Focus  online


“Humans are driven by consistencies,” says sleep researcher Prof Sara Mednick. “If you want to try establishing naps as part of your routine, try to find a time that you can consistently devote to napping. Make that the time when you just shut off.”

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5 Good Habits That Might Cause Premature Aging

AARP  online


“Like a rooster that crows to wake you up,” the bluish light of dawn entering your eyes “tells your brain, ‘Time to start the day!’ ” says Sara Mednick, professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine, and author of The Power of the Downstate: Recharge Your Life Using Your Body’s Own Restorative Systems. This has a domino effect throughout the day and into the evening, cuing your body to feel awake and energized for the next dozen or so hours and regulating appetite, mood and more. As the sun sets at night, its orange and red hues travel into your eyes, triggering your circadian clock to release sleep-promoting hormones. And you want to be sleepy, because sleep is when “you enter your most restorative mode,” Mednick says. “Muscles are repaired, energy levels are replenished, and your brain is cleaned of toxic by-products that build up during the day.”

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How Being More Mindful About Your Alcohol Consumption Can Help You Access Your “Downstate”

Thrive Global  online


I was chatting with another parent at school pickup about her career. She and her husband had just given up their secure jobs in finance to start a business together, which meant they were spending a lot more time together. I asked her how she was dealing with this sudden togetherness, to which she offered one word: wine.

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Sara C. Mednick, PhD | How to Activate Your “Ease” Button

Good Life Project  online


Turns out, we do, and it’s all about understanding our nervous system and how to actively bring ourselves into what my guest today, Professor Sara Mednick, calls the downstate. Sara is a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of California, Irvine and author of the powerful new book, The Power of the Downstate: Recharge Your Life Using Your Body’s Own Restorative Systems. She is passionate about understanding how the brain works through her research into sleep and the autonomic nervous system.

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Rest doesn't just mean sleep: What "downstate" means, and why you need more of it

Salon  online


So what if we eased off a little? What if, rather than stressing about the hours of sleep we get, we put some more energy into making our waking hours more balanced and restorative? That's the premise of Sara C. Mednick's reassuring and practical new book, "The Power of the Downstate: Recharge Your Life Using Your Body's Own Restorative Systems." Mednick, a cognitive neuroscientist and author of "Take a Nap! Change Your Life," knows that tricks like trying to "catch up" on sleep over the weekends just lead to a fog of self-induced jet lag. Instead, she wants to help us connect the dots between sleep and exercise, diet and meditative work, so we can actually feel more rested — and more energetic. Salon talked to her recently about how to build a better day, so we can enjoy a better night.

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Your 50 Top Health Questions Answered

AARP  online


47. What’s the number one thing I can do to help prevent dementia? Be in bed by 10 p.m. “The earlier you get to sleep, the more slow-wave sleep you’ll get,” says Sara Mednick, a professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine, and author of The Power of the Downstate. Slow-wave sleep (SWS) supercharges brain health, clearing away toxins and other buildup that cause dementia, as well as developing connections between areas of the brain to create stronger memories.

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Feeling forgetful? How stress may impact memory



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How The Pandemic Has Taken A Toll On Our Memory

KPCC  online


A recent study from the University of California, Irvine found that our long- and short-term memories compete for valuable space in our brains. That research was conducted in part by our guest, Sara Mednick, professor of cognitive science at UCI and author of the upcoming book “The Power of the Downstate” (Hachette Go, 2022). Today on AirTalk, we’ll talk with Professor Mednick about her research, why it’s been easier to forget during the pandemic, and how our memories are being affected by the changes we’re experiencing.

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Fox News

Fox News  online


"Our brains are like computers with so many tabs open right now," said Dr. Sara C. Mednick, a neuroscientist and professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine.

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Why We’re All Forgetting Things Right Now

The Wall Street Journal  online


“Our brains are like computers with so many tabs open right now,” says Sara C. Mednick, a neuroscientist and professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine. “This slows down our processing power, and memory is one of the areas that falters.”

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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.

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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.

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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;

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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.

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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.

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