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Want to Remember New Names? Sleep on it.

November 23, 2015

A new study by investigators at Harvard Medical School's Division of Sleep Medicine offers an additional reason to get a good night’s sleep. In a closely controlled study of fourteen participants, researchers found that they were significantly better at remembering faces and names if they were given an opportunity to sleep for up to eight hours after seeing those faces and names for the first time. The team’s findings appear in the journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory this week. Access the abstract here.

“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, PhD, MBA, corresponding author on this study and associate neuroscientist in the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at BWH. “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.”

Support for this study was provided by the National Institutes of Health (grants P01 AG09975, R01 AG044416, and R01 HL094654), and The Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center (National Center for Research Resources and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health Award UL1 TR0001102 and financial contributions from Harvard University and its affiliated academic health care centers). Students and trainees who worked on the study were supported by the Finnish Cultural Foundation, the Emil Aaltonen Foundation, The Gyllenberg Foundation, the Finnish Work Environment Fund, and the Department of Psychology at the University of Konstanz (Germany).

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