Sex-related differences in the effects of sleep habits on verbal and visuospatial working memory

Seishu Nakagawa, Hikaru Takeuchi, Yasuyuki Taki, Rui Nouchi, Atsushi Sekiguchi, Yuka Kotozaki, Carlos M. Miyauchi, Kunio Iizuka, Ryoichi Yokoyama, Takamitsu Shinada, Yuki Yamamoto, Sugiko Hanawa, Tsuyoshi Araki, Keiko Kunitoki, Yuko Sassa, Ryuta Kawashima

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11 Citations (Scopus)


Poor sleep quality negatively affects memory performance, and working memory in particular. We investigated sleep habits related to sleep quality including sleep duration, daytime nap duration, nap frequency, and dream content recall frequency (DCRF). Declarative working memory can be subdivided into verbal working memory (VWM) and visuospatial working memory (VSWM). We hypothesized that sleep habits would have different effects on VWM and VSWM. To our knowledge, our study is the first to investigate differences between VWM and VSWM related to daytime nap duration, nap frequency, and DCRF. Furthermore, we tested the hypothesis that the effects of duration and frequency of daytime naps and DCRF on VWM and VSWM differed according to sex. We assessed 779 healthy right-handed individuals (434 males and 345 females; mean age: 20.7 ± 1.8 years) using a digit span forward and backward VWM task, a forward and backward VSWM task, and sleep habits scales. A correlation analysis was used to test the relationships between VWM capacity (VWMC) and VSWM capacity (VSWMC) scores and sleep duration, nap duration, nap frequency, and DCRF. Furthermore, multiple regression analyses were conducted to identify factors associated with VWMC and VSWMC scores and to identify sex-related differences. We found significant positive correlations between VSWMC and nap duration and DCRF, and between VWMC and sleep duration in all subjects. Furthermore, we found that working memory capacity (WMC) was positively correlated with nap duration in males and with sleep duration in females, and DCRF was positively correlated with VSWMC in females. Our finding of sex-related differences in the effects of sleep habits on WMC has not been reported previously. The associations between WMC and sleep habits differed according to sex because of differences in the underlying neural correlates of VWM and VSWM, and effectiveness of the sleep habits in males and females.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1128
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberJUL
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Jul 28


  • Dream content remembering frequency (DCRF)
  • Nap duration
  • Sleep duration
  • Verbal working memory capacity (VWMC)
  • Visuospatial working memory capacity (VSWMC)


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