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Sleep Spindles & Cortical Up States
Tore Nielsen
Michelle Carr
Cloé Blanchette-Carrière
Louis-Philippe Marquis
Gaëlle Dumel
Elizaveta Solomonova
Sarah-Hélène Julien
Claudia Picard-Deland
, and
Tyna Paquette

Both rapid eye movement (REM) sleep dreaming and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep spindles have been linked to processes of memory consolidation. However, relationships between the two phenomena have yet to be explored. In a heterogeneous sample of 53 healthy subjects who had participated in a memory consolidation protocol and who varied in their self-reported recall of dreams and nightmares, we assessed overnight polysomnography, N2 sleep spindle density, REM dream word count, and retrospective estimates of how often they recall dreams, bad dreams (dysphoric dreams, no awakening), and nightmares (dysphoric dreams, with awakenings). Fast spindle density positively correlated with all measures of dream recall but was most robustly associated with bad dream recall and REM dream word count. Correlations with bad dream recall were particularly strong for spindles occurring in sleep cycles 2 and 3 and correlations with word count for cycles 1, 4, and 5. While slow spindle density showed opposite correlations with all of these measures, partialing out slow spindles attenuated, but did not eliminate, the fast spindle correlations. Results are largely consistent with the conclusion that fast sleep spindles are associated with a common trait factor that also influences dream recall. However, the results also raise the possibility that both spindles and dreaming are expressions of memory consolidation mechanisms, such as neural replay, that transcend sleep stage.

Open access