The role of sleep in emotional memory processing in middle age

Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2018 Nov;155:208-215. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2018.08.002. Epub 2018 Aug 3.


Sleep benefits memory in young adults, and this effect may be particularly strong for representations associated with negative emotion. Many aspects of sleep important for memory consolidation change with aging, particularly by middle age, suggesting that sleep-related consolidation may be reduced. However, the influence of sleep on memory has rarely been investigated in a middle-aged population. In the current study, young and middle-aged adults viewed negative and neutral pictures and underwent a recognition test after sleep or wake. Subjective emotional reactivity was also measured. Compared to waking, sleep benefited memory in young adults. Performance did not differ between sleep and wake groups in middle-aged adults, and it matched the level of young adults who slept. The effect of sleep versus wake was not influenced by memory valence in either age group. These results suggest the relative influence of sleep compared to wake on memory declines with aging, specifically by middle age, and that this decline extends to negative memory.

Keywords: Aging; Consolidation; Emotional memory; Memory; Middle age; Sleep.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Memory Consolidation / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology
  • Sleep*
  • Young Adult