Poor Sleep Leads to False Memories

Fresh off an all-nighter and ready for this morning’s conference call with a guy whose smug tone you can’t stand? Well, maybe hold off on that judgement—said smug tone, and a whole host of other things, might be a figment of your imagination.

According to a study published in Psychological Science, people who are sleep deprived are terrible at remembering details. Researchers had a group of participants look at a series of images that depicted a burglary. Some participants were then allowed to sleep a full night, others had reduced sleep (five hours), and still others got no sleep at all. The next day, participants had to recall details of the burglary (number of buglers, what they wore, things taken, etc.).

The result? People with poor sleep screwed up tonnes of details—and those with five hours of sleep did nearly as badly as people who just stayed up all night. According to Kimberly Fenn, one of the authors, “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.”

So add false memories to the list of things that poor sleep causes, which includes obesity, anxiety, and a bunch of chronic diseases.

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