Individual Trait-like Differences in Long-term Sleep Patterns Modulate Emotional and Cognitive Processing

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It remains an open question how a night of sleep modulates emotional and cognitive processing. In recent years, although research on such topics continues to grow, rather than resolve contradicting theories, the field accumulates non-replicable findings. Investigating inter-individual differences in long-term sleep patterns and how these influence emotion processing, learning, and memory can minimize such discrepancies found using one-night measures of sleep based on polysomnography. The current study explores how individual trait-like sleep patterns over multiple nights contribute to cognitive performance. Specifically, we show that individual variations in long-term sleep measures, such as the average time spent in SWS, REM or light sleep over several days, can predict participant performance in emotion perception and categorization learning. Here, we suggest that baseline differences in sleep patterns are predictive of the same processes, which raises the possibility that it is not necessarily the particular sleep parameters from the night preceding or following learning that contribute to cognitive performance but, rather, the general sleep patterns characterizing each participant as a whole. Therefore, previous sleep studies that did not find correlations between sleep and cognitive performance might have actually missed important predictors due to a critical lack of baseline sleep measures.
Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen