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New Sleep Technique Boosts Face-Name Matching Memory

written by / January 25, 2022
New Sleep Technique Boosts Face-Name Matching Memory

Do you ever feel like you have a hard time recalling somebody’s name or face? A recently published sleep study in the NPJ: Science of Learning might hold the solution—memory reactivation. 

Undoubtedly, the ability to recognize other people by their face and name and associate the two is an essential skill for humans as social beings, even more so for those who work with a lot of people every day. 

As with every memory retention process, the face-name matching ability is highly dependent on sleep, particularly deep sleep. In this study, the research team from Northwestern University found three major factors that determine this ability:

  • The use of targeted memory reactivation during sleep
  • Sleep duration
  • The duration and quality of the N3 sleep stage (slow-wave sleep or SWS).

Participants were asked to memorize 80 face-name pairs during the study and recall them one day later. 

Put briefly, the results show that those who were exposed to targeted memory reactivation during their daily naps performed better than those who napped without an intervention. 

But what does this technique consist of? 

In this case, it includes a recording of the names of the pairs read out loud while the participants were sleeping. Still, there was an additional detail—background music, intended to activate the hippocampus, which plays a huge role in long-term memory storage.

However, in addition to memory reactivation, acquiring sufficient uninterrupted deep sleep was also found to be the key condition for better face-name pairing. 

So, aiding your sleep with a melatonin supplement or other effective, natural sleep aids is essential if you’re trying to boost this skill.  

What’s important here is that with this study, neuroscience finally gives a positive answer to the question—is it possible to learn during sleep?

Also, if we can boost our facial and name recognition aptitude with this method, we can probably aid the storage of other information in a similar fashion. Certainly, there are many possibilities yet to explore. 

Marija Kovachevska is a content writer at, Biochemist and Activist. After obtaining her BSc in Biochemistry and Physiology she changed her microscope for content research tools and continued researching in the fields of Medicine, Biology, and Communication. Her insatiable curiosity flare drove her to become a “content scientist writer” as she likes to say. Reality fascinates her and facts and statistics are a must-have feature in her articles. Fluent in English and French, she is a volunteer and communication associate for several non-profit organizations. French culture and handcrafting are her passion, but in her free time, she indulges in long walks and traveling, or as she likes to say “experiencing the inexperienced.”

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