Memory encoding is impaired after multiple nights of partial sleep restriction
Sleep is important for normative cognitive functioning. A single night of total sleep deprivation can reduce the capacity to encode new memories. However, it is unclear how sleep restriction during several consecutive nights affects memory encoding. To explore this, we employed a parallel‐group design with 59 adolescents randomized into sleep‐restricted (SR) and control groups. Both groups were afforded 9 h time in bed (TIB) for 2 baseline nights, followed by 5 consecutive nights of 5 h TIB for the SR group (n = 29) and 9 h TIB for the control group (n = 30). Participants then performed a picture‐encoding task. Encoding ability was measured with a recognition test after 3 nights of 9 h TIB recovery sleep for both groups, allowing the assessment of encoding ability without the confounding effects of fatigue at retrieval. Memory was significantly worse in the sleep‐restricted group (P = 0.001), and this impairment was not correlated with decline in vigilance. We conclude that memory‐encoding deteriorates after several nights of partial sleep restriction, and this typical pattern of sleep negatively affects adolescents’ ability to learn declarative information.
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