The Need For Sleep & Its Impact On Emotional Memory

June 23, 2009 at 12:23 pm Leave a comment

Remember that old cliche about how you should “Never go to bed angry?”  image

At the recent SLEEP 2009 conference (the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies) a research abstract was presented with an interesting conclusion:  sleeping shortly after a learning experience

The details of the study are complicated to explain, but the bottom line seems to be that sleeping soon after being exposed to emotionally negative imagery somehow helps the brain to remember the information better than those who waited a full day to sleep.  Oddly, those who waited to sleep seemed to remember the context  of the information better – but didn’t do so well with the main information,

And most intriguingly, the information was retained better in the sleeping-after-learning group, even four months later – suggesting that for those who slept shortly after the experiences, the memories had been moved from short to long-term memory.

Which brings us back to “Never go to bed angry” — if the results of this study hold up, then that old advice is surprisingly accurate.   Going to sleep angry may well cause the brain to store the negative information in long-term memory, while losing the context.    The result could well be a long-standing grudge and unresolvable  negative attitude.

So either resolving the issue before sleep (turning it neutral or positive) or simply staying up for a while might really be better for our relationships, speaking from a neuroscience standpoint.

What does this have to do with brain fitness and graceful aging? Well, not a whole lot, on the surface.  But it does reinforce the idea that sleep is somehow deeply integrated into the way memories are stored.   As we age, and our sleep habits change,  we need to pay more attention to whether or not we’re getting in our daily Zzzz’s….  because not only is sleep depravation bad for the brain in general, but sleep seems to be important to how memories are sorted and stored, as well.

And to improve our recall of experiences, the researchers suggest that we “stagger” our learning, so it takes place at different parts of our waking/sleeping cycles, and can benefit from what appears to be several windows of memory formation for different types of information.

For more information on the study mentioned above, check out
The Medical News: Sleep promotes lasting changes in memory….

Entry filed under: Sleep. Tags: , , , .

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About This Blog


A healthy mind and brain is key to a healthy, active life. Come along for the ride as we explore the basics of brain health, with topics including:
  • Physical Exercise
  • Cognitive Training
  • Stress Management
  • Social Interaction
  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • A Sense of Purpose & Connection
Authored by Tori Deaux
Sponsored by Dakim Brain Fitness

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