Associations between self-reported sleep, overnight memory consolidation, and emotion perception: A large-scale online study in the general population.
Sharman R., Kyle SD., Espie CA., Tamm S.
Experimental studies suggest that short or disrupted sleep impairs memory consolidation, mood, and perception of emotional stimuli. However, studies have chiefly relied on laboratory-based study designs and small sample sizes. The aim of this fully online and pre-registered study was to investigate the association between sleep and overnight memory consolidation, emotion perception, and affect in a large, self-selected UK sample. A total of 1646 participants (473 completed) took part in an online study, where they completed a declarative (word-pairs) memory task, emotion perception task (valence ratings of images), and rated their affect within 2 h of bed-time. The following morning, participants reported on their state affect, sleep for the previous night, completed a cued recall task for the previously presented word-pairs, rated the valence of previously viewed images, and completed a surprise recognition task. Demographic data and habitual sleep quality and duration (sleep traits) were also recorded. Habitual sleep traits were associated with immediate recall for the word-pairs task, while self-reported sleep parameters for the specific night were not associated with overnight memory consolidation. Neither habitual sleep traits, nor nightly sleep parameters were associated with unpleasantness ratings to negative stimuli or overnight habituation. Habitual poor sleep was associated with less positive and more negative affect, and morning affect was predicted by the specific night's sleep. This study suggests that overnight emotional processing and declarative memory may not be associated with self-reported sleep across individuals. More work is needed to understand how findings from laboratory-based studies extrapolate to real-world samples and contexts.