Can poor sleep form false memories?

By admin
05 August 2014

Not getting enough sleep could create false memories, new research has discovered.

It is known that a lack of shut eye can mess with your head, but now a study has found that the sleep-deprived state can form flashbacks which didn't actually happen.

This could prove worrying, especially if a person is required to give a statement or be a witness in a crime as it could result in injustice.

An experiment published in the journal Psychological Science saw 104 students look at photographs of crimes taking place. They were then told false facts about what the images showed.

Following this stage half of the students slept, while the others stayed awake all night before an assessment the next day. When asked what they saw in the pictures, those who had no sleep were more likely to be convinced they had 'seen' the fake details given to them in the photos, whereas those who snoozed were more able to recall the images accurately.

This follows on from other studies which proved not getting a full night's sleep affects cognitive functioning.

However University of California psychologist, scientist Steven Frenda, has found there is information missing on the relationship between memory and sleep.

"Over the years I noticed that whenever I had a bad night’s sleep, my perception and memory seemed to get fuzzy until I had a good recovery sleep," he explained.

"I was surprised to find that there were so few empirical studies connecting sleep deprivation with memory distortion in an eyewitness context. The studies that do exist look mostly at sleep deprived people’s ability to accurately remember lists of words - not real people, places and events."

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