Rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep-associated post‐nap enhancement of affective inhibitory control in depressed college students

M.L. WONG, Esther Yuet Ying LAU, B. RUSAK, K.F. CHUNG, N.T. LAU, S. LAM

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


Introduction: Mood problems and sleep restriction are prevalent in youths and detrimental to their cognitive functions. We aim to investigate if depressed youths benefited from a daytime sleep opportunity in their control of responses to emotional stimuli.

Methods: 61 youths (aged 17‐23 years, 31% depressed as assessed by structured clinical interview) completed the Affective Go/No Go (AGNG) task at 1300 (Test 1) and 1730 (Test 2), and were given a 90‐min daytime sleep opportunity monitored by polysomnography. In the AGNG task, faces with neutral, positive and negative emotional expressions were used as stimuli. There were six experimental blocks with each type of emotional expression having similar number of trials as being the target(go) or non‐target(no‐go). Signal detection theory was used to calculate participants’ discrimination index (d’) in responding to face stimuli. Performance change was assessed by subtracting Test 2 d’ from Test 1 d’, a positive difference indicated deterioration across sessions.

Results: The depressed and non‐depressed groups were not significantly different on demographic features or habitual sleep measured by actigraphy. Analyses of d’ with one between‐group (depressed/control) and one within‐group (test session) factors showed a significant interaction effect on d’ for neutral (F1,59=4.366, p=0.041, η2 =0.069) but not negative (F1,59=1.421, p=0.238) or positive faces (F1,59=0.220, p=0.641). Follow‐up analyses for neutral faces showed that while the depressed group had significantly worse d’ in Test 1 (F1,60=4.736, p=0.034, η2 =0.074), the group difference became non‐significant in Test 2 (F1, 60=3.647, p=0.061, η2 =0.058). Greater improvement of d’ across sessions correlated positively with the percentage of REM, r(19)=‐.459, p=0.048, among the depressed but not the non‐depressed group, r(40) =‐0.081. p=0.621. No other significant results were noted.

Discussions: Depressed college students were able to catch up with their healthy counterparts on inhibitory control ability towards neutral information after a daytime sleep opportunity. Consistent with previous finding of the REM‐related improvement in working memory during nap, our finding highlighted the role of sleep, specifically REM sleep and napping in college students’ cognitive affective functions. The implications on students’ development and learning will be discussed.

Acknowledgements: This study was funded by the General Research Fund (#18619616), Research Grant Council, HKSAR. Copyright © 2018 Sleep DownUnder.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


Wong, M. L., Lau, E. Y. Y., Rusak, B., Chung, K. F., Lau, N. T., & Lam, S. (2018, October). Rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep-associated post‐nap enhancement of affective inhibitory control in depressed college students. Paper presented at Sleep DownUnder 2018: 30th ASM of Australasian Sleep Association and the Australasian Sleep Technologists Association, Brisbane, Australia.


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