A 2019 study published in Behavioral Sleep Medicine clarified that there is a link between the amount of sleep we get and our ability to recall memories of specific events.
The relationship between sleep quality and the strength of our memories is important because it is a step toward understanding why poor sleep can predict depression and other psychological illnesses.
Sleep researchers have long known that sleep helps consolidate memories, especially during the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep stage.
Psychologist Tom J. Barry and colleagues found that lower total sleep time was associated with reduced specificity of events which occurred in their research subjects’ lives. People in the study were given cue words like confident or alone and asked to recall particular events relating to them. With less sleep, they remembered fewer details around, for example, being alone on New Year’s Eve in 2017.
The sleep study also sought to investigate how sleep affects memory in real-world conditions. Volunteers used devices which measured the amount of sleep they experienced at home over a week versus the artificial conditions of one night spent in a sleep lab.
For more information, see Barry, T., Takano, K., Boddez, Y., & Raes, F. (2019). Lower sleep duration is associated with reduced autobiographical memory. Behavioral Sleep Medicine 17(5) 586 – 594.