People who sleep for eight hours are significantly better at remembering faces and names after seeing them for the first time, a new study has found.
Researchers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston conducted the study on 14 participants, who were shown 20 photos of faces with corresponding names from a database of over 600 color photographs of adult faces and asked to memorise them.
After a twelve-hour period, they were then shown the photos again with either a correct or incorrect name. In addition to answering whether or not the correct name was shown, participants were asked to rate their confidence on a scale of one to nine.
“We know that many different kinds of memories are improved with sleep. While a couple of studies have looked at how naps might affect our ability to learn new faces and names, no previous studies have looked at the impact of a full night of sleep in between learning and being tested,” said Jeanne F Duffy, associate neuroscientist in the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Each participant completed the test twice – once with an interval of sleep in between and once with a period of regular, waking day activities in between.
When given an opportunity to sleep for up to eight hours, participants correctly matched 12 per cent more of the faces and names.
“We found that when participants were given the opportunity to have a full night’s sleep, their ability to correctly identify the name associated with a face – and their confidence in their answers – significantly improved,” she added.
The new findings, conducted on healthy subjects in their 20s, suggest that sleep after new learning activities may help improve memory.
“Sleep is important for learning new information. As people get older, they are more likely to develop sleep disruptions and sleep disorders, which may in turn cause memory issues,” Duffy said.
The findings were published in the journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory.