Not Getting Enough Sleep Can Lead To Fake Memories

And not necessarily the good kind.

1. Your memories are more likely to become distorted when you’re sleep-deprived, new research shows.

Sebastian Kaulitzki/Sebastian Kaulitzki

This can be crucial in legal situations, especially when it comes to the accuracy of eyewitness reports.

2. After pulling an all-nighter, participants looked at pictures of a crime being committed.

Then they read statements that contradicted what they had witnessed.

So, for instance, if the thief (let’s call him the Hamburglar) was seen putting a burger in his pants pocket, the statement said that it was placed in his cape.

3. When they took a memory test, they were more likely to report the fake details from the statements as being true than other groups.


Participants that saw the images before they stayed up all night were no more susceptible to false memories than the students who’d been allowed to sleep.

That is, seeing the information before sleep deprivation didn’t affect memory recall, but encoding the information after sleep deprivation was when participants remembered things incorrectly.

4. Preliminary research that led to this study found that sleeping for five hours or less also had detrimental effect on memory.

The researchers will continue to investigate the susceptibility. That way they can provide law enforcement with evidence-based guidelines to ensure eyewitness reports are as accurate as possible.

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