Brigham and Women’s Hospital researchers closely evaluated 14 participants and found that they were substantially better at remembering information like faces and names of people if they were able to get up to eight hours of sleep afterward.
“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,” corresponding author Dr. Jeanne F. Duffy said in a public release. “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 were shown 20 photos of faces and names from a database comprised of more than 600 photos. They were asked to memorize the information. Researchers then asked the individuals to identify the people in the photos by name 12 hours later. The confidence level of each response was also evaluated.
Each of the 14 individuals completed the activity twice, once with an interval of sleep in between and once with regular waking activities in between.
The study suggests that participants correctly matched 12 percent more of the faces and names when given the opportunity to sleep for eight hours.
The research team says more extensive studies with larger sample sizes will help confirm the findings. The current study was limited to healthy subjects in their 20s.
“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,” said Duffy. “By addressing issues with sleep, we may be able to affect people’s ability to learn things at all different ages.”