Dr. Sara C. Mednick is Associate Professor of Psychology 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. Dr. 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). Dr. 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. She resides in San Diego, CA.
Areas of Expertise (5)
Harvard University: PhD, Psychology 2003
Bard College: BA, Drama/Dance 1994
Media Appearances (5)
Think Prescription Stimulants Like Adderall Improve Focus? They Don’t
Sara Mednick, PhD, the study’s co-author and UCI associate professor of cognitive sciences and director of the campus’s sleep lab, told Healthline the tests were meant to mimic what the human brain typically endures, like remembering a phone number while doing other tasks.
'Brain boost' drugs hamper sleep and memory with little upside
“Our research suggests that the purported enhancement to executive function from psychostimulants in healthy populations may be somewhat exaggerated, as we found only minor daytime improvement in attention and no benefit to working memory,” says coauthor Sara Mednick, associate professor of cognitive sciences and director of the Sleep and Cognition Lab.
Midday naps increase children's happiness and IQ
University of California online
That’s partially because in places like the United States, napping stops altogether as children get older. In China, however, the practice is embedded into daily life, continuing through elementary and middle school, even into adulthood. So, Liu and Raine, with Penn biostatistician Rui Feng, UC Irvine sleep researcher Sara Mednick and others, turned to the China Jintan Cohort Study, established in 2004 to follow participants from toddlerhood through adolescence.
Afternoon naps can boost kid's happiness, IQ: Study
The Week online
"Many lab studies across all ages have demonstrated that naps can show the same magnitude of improvement as a full night of sleep on discrete cognitive tasks," said Sara Mednick, from UC Irvine.
School children who nap are happier, excel academically, and have fewer behavioral problems
Science Daily online
That's partially because in places like the United States, napping stops altogether as children get older. In China, however, the practice is embedded into daily life, continuing through elementary and middle school, even into adulthood. So, Liu and Raine, with Penn biostatistician Rui Feng, UC Irvine sleep researcher Sara Mednick and others, turned to the China Jintan Cohort Study, established in 2004 to follow participants from toddlerhood through adolescence.
New directions in sleep and memory research: the role of autonomic activityCurrent 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.
The impact of psychostimulants on sustained attention over a 24-h periodCognition
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.
Timing between Cortical Slow Oscillations and Heart Rate Bursts during Sleep Predicts Temporal Processing Speed, but Not Offline ConsolidationJournal 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;
Morning stimulant administration reduces sleep and overnight working memory improvementBehavioural 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.
Midday napping in children: associations between nap frequency and duration across cognitive, positive psychological well-being, behavioral, and metabolic health outcomesSleep
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.