To examine the effect of sleep deprivation compared to sleep, immediately after experimental trauma stimuli on the development of intrusive memories to that trauma stimuli.
Participants were exposed to a film with traumatic content (trauma film). The immediate response to the trauma film was assessed, followed by either total sleep deprivation (sleep deprived group, N = 20) or sleep as usual (sleep group, N = 22). Twelve hours after the film viewing the initial psychological effect of the trauma film was measured and for the subsequent 6 days intrusive emotional memories related to the trauma film were recorded in daily life.
Academic sleep laboratory and participants' home environment.
Healthy paid volunteers.
Measurements and results:
On the first day after the trauma film, the psychological effect as assessed by the Impact of Event Scale – Revised was lower in the sleep deprived group compared to the sleep group. In addition, the sleep deprived group reported fewer intrusive emotional memories (mean 2.28, standard deviation [SD] 2.91) compared to the sleep group (mean 3.76, SD 3.35). Because habitual sleep/circadian patterns, psychological health, and immediate effect of the trauma film were similar at baseline for participants of both groups, the results cannot be accounted for by pre-existing inequalities between groups.
Our findings suggest that sleep deprivation on one night, rather than sleeping, reduces emotional effect and intrusive memories following exposure to experimental trauma.
Porcheret K, Holmes EA, Goodwin GM, Foster RG, Wulff K. Psychological effect of an analogue traumatic event reduced by sleep deprivation. SLEEP 2015;38(7):1017–1025.