Early to bed, better to prescribe? Prospective memory performance in medical students after sleep extension or reduction

Kellar, I. 1 , Ellison, G. 1 , Scullin, M. 2 & Weighall, A. 1

1 University of Leeds, UK.
2 Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, US.

Remembering to execute a delayed action (e.g., to post a letter after work) is a cognitively challenging task and such prospective memory goals are often unsuccessful. Yet, there is surprisingly little consideration of the role of consolidation processes that underpin prospective memory. A positive role for sleep in prospective memory execution has been found (Scullin & McDaniel, 2012; Diekelmann et al, 2013). This is potentially important in clinical settings where sleep is often disrupted. An early (10pm) or late (2am) bedtime was manipulated with 40 medical students the night after encoding a prospective memory goal and the subsequent night. Participants monitored for names of familiar non-penicillin antibiotics during several ongoing cognitive tasks (lexical decision, semantic decision; living/non-living) simulating the cognitive demands of clinical settings. Penicillin containing semantic lures were also presented. Multiple linear regression revealed a significant positive relationship between amount of sleep and prospective memory performance. Those who went to bed early detected significantly more critical targets in all three tasks (all p<.05). However, erroneous key presses for ?lures? also increased (p<.05). Good sleep promoted target detection but the relationship between sleep and the ability to make fine-grained discriminations between categories (e.g., type of antibiotics) requires further exploration.