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Sleep deprivation is associated with false memories

Harold Mandel's picture
A woman having trouble sleeping

Sleep is essential for overall good health in body and mind. Yet, many people disregard advice to get adequate sleep on a daily basis and risk their well being by being in a sleep deprived state. New research shows sleep deprivation may impair memory.

Sleep deprivation has been linked to impaired cognitive function

There have been many studies which have investigated factors which affect susceptibility to false memories reported the journal Psychological Science. Although a great deal of evidence has linked sleep deprivation to impaired cognitive function few of these studies have investigated the role which sleep deprivation plays in the formation of false memories.

Sleep deprivation can cause an increase in false memories

Researchers investigated the relationship which exists between self-reported sleep duration and false memories and the effect which 24 hours of sleep deprivation has on the susceptibility to developing false memories. The researchers discovered under certain conditions sleep deprivation can cause an increase in the risk of the development of false memories. This research is the first to investigate the effect of sleep deprivation on susceptibility to the development of false memories, which can have very serious consequences.

Lack of sleep is a public health epidemic

Lack of sleep is now considered to be a public health epidemic reports Michigan State University in a discussion of this research. This lack of sleep can also lead to errors in memory according to a new study by researchers at Michigan State University and the University of California, Irvine.

Distortions of memory can lead to wrongful convictions

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In this study which has been published in the journal Psychological Science participants who were deprived of a night’s sleep were more likely to mess up on remembering the details of a simulated burglary which they were shown in a series of images. A distortion of memory is often associated with serious consequences in such areas such as criminal justice where eyewitness misidentifications are seen as being the leading cause of wrongful convictions in the United States.

Insufficient sleep is an epidemic

Kimberly Fenn, Michigan State University associate professor of psychology and co-investigator on the study, said the researchers discovered that memory distortion is greater after sleep deprivation is experienced. Fenn also points out that people are getting less sleep every night than they ever have. Insufficient sleep has been called an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Insufficient sleep is linked to many serious problems such as

1: Vehicle crashes

2: Industrial disasters

3: Chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes

Repeatedly not getting enough sleep may cause problems with memory

In this research participants who were kept from sleeping for 24 hours and even people who got five or fewer hours of sleep were more likely to mix up event details in a memory task than participants who got a good nights sleep. Fenn says people who repeatedly do not get enough sleep every night may be more prone in the long run to the development of memory distortion. It may not just be one full night of sleep deprivation which puts people at risk.

This research should alert people to the critical need to try to get an adequate amount of sleep on a daily basis. The realization that not getting enough sleep is at epidemic levels is alarming. Physicians should make certain they question patients about sleep and work with sleep deprived patients to help them get adequate sleep. The health and even lives of people may depend on this.