A Good Night’s Sleep Could Help You Remember Names and Faces

A Brigham and Women's study found that individuals who slept after learning names had improved recall.

If you’re constantly forgetting new acquaintances, try to remember this: Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) says sleeping may be an easy way to remember names.

A new study from the hospital found that individuals who slept for up to eight hours after learning a new name had better recall the next time they saw that person’s face. Sleep has long been linked to memory, but BWH’s is the first study to specifically examine whether a full night’s sleep, as opposed to naps, affects learning.

The study’s participants were shown 20 photos of faces, labelled with that person’s name. Twelve hours later, they were shown the same photos, accompanied by either a correct or incorrect name, and asked to determine if the name was right. When the participants did the activity after sleeping, researchers found that they answered correctly 12 percent more often than when they spent the time between tests awake.

The study population was not diverse—it focused on only 14 participants, all in their 20s and in good health—but corresponding author Jeanne Duffy, a neuroscientist in BWH’s Department of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, says the findings could have an even larger impact on the older demographic:

“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.”

No matter your age, never again resorting to weird mnemonic devices or frantic whispers to friends seems like pretty solid motivation for getting your eight hours.