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Sleep Deprivation Tied to False Memories

Update Date: Jul 21, 2014 01:56 PM EDT

Sleep deprivation is detrimental to one's health. In a new study, researchers from Michigan State University and the University of California, Irvine set out to examine the effects of sleep deprivation on people's memories. They found that a lack of sleep was tied to the development of false memories.

"We found memory distortion is greater after sleep deprivation," the co-investigator of the study, Kimberly Fenn said according to the MSU's press release. Fenn is an associate professor of psychology at MSU. "And people are getting less sleep each night than they ever have."

For this study, Fenn and fellow researchers analyzed people's ability to recall while being sleep deprived. 'The participants were shown a series of images that depicted a stimulated burglary. Some of the participants had slept varying hours while others were kept awake for 24 hours straight. The participants had to recall the details from the images.

The researchers found that people who did not sleep at all were more likely to mix up the details from the photos and recall information that was not correct. People who slept five hours or less also had difficulty with their memory in comparison to people who got a full night's rest.

"We found that under certain conditions, sleep deprivation can increase the risk of developing false memories. Specifically, sleep deprivation increased false memories in a misinformation task when participants were sleep deprived during event encoding, but did not have a significant effect when the deprivation occurred after event encoding," the authors concluded.

Fenn added, "People who repeatedly get low amounts of sleep every night could be more prone in the long run to develop these forms of memory distortion. It's not just a full night of sleep deprivation that puts them at risk."

The researchers stated that getting enough sleep is important. Sleep deprivation has been tied to several other problems not related to memory, such as vehicular accidents.

The study, "Sleep Deprivation and False Memories," was published in the journal, Psychological Science.

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