Memory is key to living. It helps us carry out complex and simple tasks, from our job to preparing our morning cup of coffee. It’s also something that deteriorates with age, with many trying their best to preserve it once they enter their senior years.
Now, a new study provides a simple solution to memory problems, one that likely won’t completely prevent dementia, but that can still result in a healthier brain and recall. Published in the journal Nature, the study shows that uninterrupted sleep can help boost our memories.
Researchers of the study gathered 24 subjects between the ages of 18 and 31 and had them complete a variety of tasks. For starters, subjects had to memorize 80 faces and names: 40 from a Latin American history class and 40 from a Japanese class. Subjects were then asked to take a nap while their brain waves were measured by EEG scans. Once subjects entered their slow-wave of sleep stage (also known as deep sleep), a subset of spoken names with associated background music was played.
According to the study, “This manipulation preferentially improved name recall and face recognition for those reactivated face-name pairs.” Researchers concluded that “memory benefits were positively correlated with the duration of stage N3 sleep (slow-wave sleep) and negatively correlated with measures of sleep disruption.”
This finding is one that reinforces evidence available from previous studies. According to experts, deep sleep is the stage where memories are consolidated, which is why a variety of studies have found links between the two. For example, an older study found that students who study before going to bed have sharper memories and recollections for tests.
Deep sleep is achieved once people have adequate sleep time, clocking in their 7, 8 or 9 hours a night. The American Sleep Association recommends getting your deep sleep by creating and sticking to a healthy routine, one where you work out often and eat healthy meals. Adhering to the same bedtime can also help you get to sleep quicker and easier every night.