Zolpidem Maintains Memories for Negative Emotions Across a Night of Sleep


Zolpidem, a common medication for sleep complaints, also shows secondary, unexpected memory benefits. We previously found that zolpidem prior to a nap enhanced negative, highly arousing picture memory. As zolpidem is typically administered at night, how it affects overnight emotional memory processing is relevant. We used a double-blind, placebo-controlled, within-subject, cross-over design to investigate if zolpidem boosted negative compared to neutral picture memory. Subjects learned both pictures sets in the morning. That evening, subjects were administered zolpidem or placebo and slept in the lab. Recognition was tested that evening and the following morning. We found that zolpidem maintained negative picture memory compared to forgetting in the placebo condition. Furthermore, zolpidem increased slow-wave sleep time, decreased rapid eye movement sleep time, and increased the fast spindle range in NREM. Our results suggest that zolpidem may enhance negative memory longevity and salience. These findings raise concerns for zolpidem administration to certain clinical populations.