Sleep deprivation increases rates of forgetting in episodic memory. Yet, whether an extended lack of sleep alters the qualitative nature of forgetting is unknown. We compared forgetting of episodic memories across intervals of overnight sleep, daytime wakefulness, and overnight sleep deprivation. Item-level forgetting was amplified across daytime wakefulness and overnight sleep deprivation, as compared to sleep. Importantly, however, overnight sleep deprivation led to a further deficit in associative memory that was not observed after daytime wakefulness. These findings suggest that sleep deprivation induces fragmentation among item memories and their associations, altering the qualitative nature of episodic forgetting.
© 2020 Ashton et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.