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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Sleep Quality and the Content of Autobiographical Memory: Differential Associations by Memory Valence and Temporality

  • Author(s): Valentovich, Valentina
  • Advisor(s): Lukowski, Angela
  • et al.

Although sleep after learning has been associated with memory for emotional stimuli in the laboratory, research has not yet been conducted to examine relations between sleep and the subjective experience of autobiographical memories. The present study was conducted to determine whether sleep quality was associated with the subjective experience of autobiographical memory and whether the demonstrated associations were mediated by depression. One hundred twenty-one female university students reported on their most significant positive and negative memories as well as memories of positive and negative events that occurred during the previous 2 weeks; they also completed measures of sleep quality and depression. The results revealed that participants with poor sleep quality reported events that occurred more frequently relative to participants with good sleep quality. The former group was also less confident that the reported memories were not influenced by pictures or conversations with others relative to the latter. In addition, participants with poor sleep quality thought more about their negative experiences and used more negative emotion words when describing recent negative events relative to participants with good sleep quality. Depressive symptoms mediated the relation between sleep quality and (a) frequency of thought about negative events and (b) the percent of negative emotion words used when discussing recent positive events. Given that the process of evaluating and making meaning of past emotional events is associated with mental health, future research should examine whether sleep interventions might serve to improve sleep quality, reduce indices of depression, and facilitate the processing of negative events.

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