Emotional memory processing is influenced by sleep quality

Sleep Med. 2015 Jul;16(7):862-70. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2015.01.024. Epub 2015 Apr 14.


Objective: The recall of emotional memory is enhanced after sleep and is hindered by sleep deprivation. We used an emotional memory task to assess whether poor sleep quality, as well as sleep deprivation, may influence the accuracy of memory recognition, but also the affective tone associated with the memory.

Methods: Seventy-five subjects, divided into poor sleeper (PS), good sleeper (GS), and sleep deprivation (SD) groups, completed two recall (R) sessions: R1, 1 h after the encoding phase; and R2, after one night of sleep for PS and GS groups and after one night of sleep deprivation for the SD group. During the encoding phase, the participants rated valence and arousal of 90 pictures. During R1 and R2, the participants first made a yes/no memory judgment of the 45 target pictures intermingled with 30 non-target pictures, then rated valence and arousal of each picture.

Results: Recognition accuracy was higher for the PS and GS groups compared to the SD group for all pictures. Emotional valence of the remembered pictures was more negative after sleep deprivation and poor quality sleep, while it was preserved after a good sleep.

Conclusions: These results provide the first evidence that poor sleep quality negatively affects emotional valence of memories, within the context of preserved emotional memory consolidation. It is suggested that low sleep quality and lack of sleep may impose a more negative affective tone to memories. The reported effects are not to be ascribed to depressive mood, but to a specific influence of poor sleep quality.

Keywords: Affective valence; Emotion regulation; Memory consolidation; Sleep deprivation.

MeSH terms

  • Dyssomnias / psychology*
  • Emotions*
  • Facial Expression*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory Consolidation
  • Mental Recall*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Recognition, Psychology
  • Retention, Psychology
  • Sleep Deprivation / psychology*
  • Sleep*
  • Students
  • Young Adult