Want to improve your memory? Sleep on it! Recalling new names and faces is ‘easier after 8 hours of sleep’

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It’s vital to our health and wellbeing with the gold standard thought to be eight hours a night.

But, now a team of researchers have offered another incentive to ensure you get enough sleep.

They discovered people were ‘significantly better’ at remembering faces and names if they achieved eight hours shut eye.

Dr Jeanne Duffy, an associate neuroscientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said: ‘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’s sleep in between learning and being tested.

‘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.’

Participants in the study underwent testing in a controlled environment while staying at the hospital’s Center for Clinical Investigation.

They were shown 20 photos of faces with corresponding names from a database of more than 600 colour photographs of adult faces, and asked to memorise them.

After a 12-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.

Each volunteer completed the test twice.

Once, with an interval of sleep in better, 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.

The researchers said sleep duration or sleep stage did not influence people’s ability to correctly recognise faces and names.

More extensive, larger studies will be needed to determine if these factors make a difference, they said.

The new findings suggest that sleep after new learning activities may help improve memory.

While the current study was conducted on healthy subjects in their 20s, the research team would like to explore the implications for people of all ages, including older adults.

‘Sleep is important for learning new information,’ Dr Duffy said.

As people get older, they are more likely to develop sleep disruptions and sleep disorders, which may in turn cause memory issues..

‘By addressing issues with sleep, we may be able to affect people’s ability to learn things at all different ages.’

The team’s findings appear in the journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory this week.

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