A sleepless night disrupts the resolution of emotional conflicts: Behavioural and neural evidence

Yeuk Ching LAM, Cheng LI, Janet Hui-wen HSIAO, Esther Yuet Ying LAU

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review


The present study aims to investigate the influence of 24-hr sleep deprivation on implicit emotion regulation using the emotional conflict task. Twenty-five healthy young adults completed a repeated-measures study protocol involving a night of at-home normal sleep control and a night of in-laboratory sleep deprivation. Prior to the experimental session, all participants wore an actigraph watch and completed the sleep diary. Following each condition, participants performed an emotional conflict task with electroencephalographic recordings. Emotional faces (fearful or happy) overlaid with words (“fear” or “happy”) were used as stimuli creating congruent or incongruent trials, and participants were instructed to indicate whether the facial expression was happy or fearful. We measured the accuracy and reaction time on the emotional conflict task, as well as the mean amplitude of the P300 component of the event-related potential at CPz. At the behavioural level, sleep-deprived participants showed reduced alertness with overall longer reaction times and higher error rates. In addition, participants in the sleep deprivation condition made more errors when the current trial followed congruent trials compared with when it followed incongruent trials. At the neural level, P300 amplitude evoked under the sleep-deprived condition was significantly more positive compared with the normal sleep condition, and this effect interacted with previous-trial and current-trial congruency conditions, suggesting that participants used more attentional resources to resolve emotional conflicts when sleep deprived. Our study provided pioneering data demonstrating that sleep deprivation may impair the regulation of emotional processing in the absence of explicit instruction among emerging adults. Copyright © 2024 The Authors.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere14176
JournalJournal of Sleep Research
Early online dateFeb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Feb 2024


Lam, Y. C., Li, C., Hsiao, J. H.-W., & Lau, E. Y. Y. (2024). A sleepless night disrupts the resolution of emotional conflicts: Behavioural and neural evidence. Journal of Sleep Research. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1111/jsr.14176


  • Conflict resolution
  • Emotion regulation
  • P300
  • Sleep deprivation


Dive into the research topics of 'A sleepless night disrupts the resolution of emotional conflicts: Behavioural and neural evidence'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.