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Sleep enhances the consolidation of memory; however, this property of sleep may be detrimental in situations where memories of an event can lead to psychopathology, such as following a traumatic event. Intrusive memories of trauma are emotional memories that spring to mind involuntarily and are a core feature of post-traumatic stress disorder. Total sleep deprivation in a hospital setting on the first night after an analogue trauma (a trauma film) led to fewer intrusive memories compared to sleep as usual in one study. The current study aimed to test an extension of these findings: sleep deprivation under more naturalistic conditions-at home. Polysomnographic recordings show inconsistent sleep deprivation was achieved at home. Fewer intrusive memories were reported on day 1 after the trauma film in the sleep-deprived condition. On day 2 the opposite was found: more intrusive memories in the sleep-deprived condition. However, no significant differences were found with the removal of two participants with extreme values and no difference was found in the total number of intrusive memories reported in the week following the trauma film. Voluntary memory of the trauma film was found to be slightly impaired in the sleep deprivation condition. In conclusion, compared to our eariler findings using total sleep deprivation in a hospital setting, in the current study the use of inconsistent sleep deprivation at home does not replicate the pattern of results on reducing the number of intrusive memories. Considering the conditions under which sleep deprivation (naturalistic versus hospital) was achieved requires further examination.

Original publication




Journal article


Transl Psychiatry

Publication Date