The Relationship between Sleep Quality and the Emotional Valence of Autobiographical Memories

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Chambers, Alexis M.
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A popular and current research focus is the relationship between sleep and memory. In numerous studies, adequate sleep has been related to improved memory for facts and pictures, specifically emotionally salient ones. However, because such studies have primarily investigated sleep’s effects on the encoding of general episodic memory, the effects of sleep on the retrieval of autobiographical memory have been largely ignored. The present study’s objective was to determine whether sleep quality and daytime sleepiness relates to the retrieval of emotional autobiographical memory. Specifically, it was hypothesized that decreased sleep quality and more daytime fatigue relates to increased recall of negative memories. Participants completed measures of sleep quality, sleepiness, mood, depression, and reported a memory of a meaningful personal experience before subsequently rating this memory on scales of vividness, emotional valence, rehearsal, and age. Results indicate that while overall sleep quality does not relate to the emotional valence of autobiographical memories, poorer sleep efficiency does correspond to an increase in negative memory recall. Further, multiple regression analysis revealed daytime sleepiness to be a significant predictor of more negative memories recalled. These results add to the previous literature by highlighting the importance of sleep on the retrieval of emotional personal memories. Future research is needed to replicate and extend these findings.