Mood and Memory

Q: Does mood affect the quality of sleep?
A: Mood can certainly affect your ability to get to sleep or stay asleep. High anxiety levels can lead to a state of hyperarousal (increased alertness), thereby impairing your ability to get to sleep and sometimes to stay asleep. A depressed mood can have varying effects on sleep quality and quantity. Some evidence suggests that, during severe depression, REM sleep starts earlier than normal and may occur more frequently. Severely depressed people spend less time in stage 3 and stage 4 sleep. Some people feel they need to sleep longer, others wake up frequently, and yet others have insomnia, particularly “terminal insomnia” (awakening too early in the morning). If you feel your mood is affecting your sleep patterns, it is best to seek medical advice.
Q: What happens to memory as we fall asleep?
A: Sleep onset closes the gate between short– and long-term memory stores. This means that we don’t encode material prior to sleep sufficiently strongly to recall it if sleep persists for approximately 10 minutes. We lose all memory of events that take place a few minutes before sleep onset.
Q: Is sleep important for memory?
A: Yes, many studies have now shown that we need sufficient sleep for our memory to function properly. If we are deprived of sleep our ability to perform well on tasks that require vigilance and concentration, as well as processing of information, markedly decreases. A few studies have shown that even mild to moderate levels of sleep deprivation can produce a level of functioning similar to being drunk.

Sleep Diary

How do you know you are sleeping consistently well? One way of monitoring your sleep and sleep patterns is to keep a sleep diary. Like all diaries, it helps to record your activities during the day and particularly the amount of time you spend asleep. Sometimes we are unaware of our bad habits until they are pointed out to us. The diary helps you uncover any factors leading to poor sleep. It is also a way of monitoring change or progress and in particular, the treatments or changes in your behavior that may help you sleep better.

Keep your sleep diary beside your bed and fill it in every morning for 2 weeks– you can use the example opposite for reference. Indicate for each day any events that may have influenced or disturbed your sleep. If you do have concerns about the quality of your sleep or sleep patterns, seek medical advice.

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