The impact of sleep deprivation on declarative memory

Prog Brain Res. 2019:246:27-53. doi: 10.1016/bs.pbr.2019.01.007. Epub 2019 Mar 21.


Sleep plays a crucial role in memory stabilization and integration, yet many people obtain insufficient sleep. This review assesses what is known about the level of sleep deprivation that leads to impairments during encoding, consolidation and retrieval of declarative memories, and what can be determined about the underlying neurophysiological processes. Neuroimaging studies that deprived sleep after learning have provided some of the most compelling evidence for sleep's role in the long-term reorganization of memories in the brain (systems consolidation). However, the behavioral consequences of losing sleep after learning-shown by increased forgetting-appear to recover over time and are unaffected by more common forms of partial sleep restriction across several nights. The capacity to encode new memories is the most vulnerable to sleep loss, since long-term deficits have been observed after total and partial sleep deprivation, while retrieval mechanisms are relatively unaffected. The negative impact of sleep loss on memory has been explored extensively after a night of total sleep deprivation, but further research is needed on the consequences of partial sleep loss over many days so that impairments may be generalized to more common forms of sleep loss.

Keywords: Consolidation; Declarative memory; Encoding; Long-term memory; Retrieval; Sleep; Sleep deprivation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Deprivation / psychology*