Forming memories of experienced episodes calls upon the episodic memory system. Episodic encoding may proceed with and without awareness of episodes. While up to 60% of consciously encoded episodes are forgotten after 10 h, the fate of unconsciously encoded episodes is unknown. Here we track over 10 h, which are filled with sleep or daytime activities, the retention of unconsciously and consciously experienced episodes. The episodes were displayed in cartoon clips that were presented weakly and strongly masked for conscious and unconscious encoding, respectively. Clip retention was tested for distinct clips directly after encoding, 3 min and 10 h after encoding using a forced-choice test that demands deliberate responses in both consciousness conditions. When encoding was conscious, retrieval accuracy decreased by 25% from 3 min to 10 h, irrespective of sleep or wakefulness. When encoding was unconscious, retrieval accuracy increased from 3 min to 10 h and depended on sleep. Hence, opposite to the classic forgetting curve, unconsciously acquired episodic memories strengthen over time and hinge on sleep on the day of learning to gain influence over human behavior.