Lack of sleep may raise risk of false memories
Sleep deprivation may contribute to false memories, where you recall events that never happened, according to a new study.
Scientists from the University of California-Irvine and Michigan State University recruited 104 college-aged participants and divided them into four groups. All groups were given a test in which they saw a series of photos depicting a crime taking place. Two of the groups took the test late at night, one of which was allowed to sleep while the other was required to stay awake throughout the night. The other two groups took the test in the morning. The same sleep rules applied for them.
The participants were then asked to read eyewitness statements about the crime scene depicted in the photos. Some of the eyewitness statements matched what was actually shown in the photos, while others did not. After reading the statements, the participants were asked whether they recalled what was shown in the photos.
The results of the study showed that people in the groups who were not allowed to sleep were more likely to recall the events shown in the photos not as what they actually saw, but as what they had read in false eyewitness narratives.
The findings, published in the journal Psychological Science, suggest that lack of sleep may contribute to false memory formation. Researchers noted that further research is needed, however, before such findings could be applied to law enforcement.