Sleeplessness Will Wreak Havoc On Your Memory

A new study shows that when you pull an all-nighter or deprive yourself of sleep, you also put yourself at risk of developing false or inaccurate memories.

What's the Latest?


A new study published in Psychological Science reveals just how dire the consequences of sleep deprivation can be. It turns out that when you pull an all-nighter, it's not just your sleep schedule getting wrecked; it's your memory as well. Researchers at UC Irvine found that subjects who had not slept the night before a test exhibited signs of false or altered memories when asked to describe a previously-seen photograph. Sleep-deprived brains distort memories by incorporating false and/or assumed information during recall. What results is a recollection in which memory gaps are filled by misinformation or preconceived notions.

What's the Big Idea?

These findings have far-reaching implications. First, it solidifies the case that sleep deprivation is dangerously unhealthy (and that the 50-70 million Americans who suffer from it should seek help). Second, it gives credence to the argument that staying up all night to study for a test can actually be to a student's detriment. Finally -- and most important to the folks behind the study -- that witnesses who testify after long, restless interrogations could potentially have their claims thrown out under the condition that their memories had become impaired due to lack of sleep. 

Take a look at the Scientific American article linked below to learn about the tests researchers administered and how memory recall is much more like running a computer diagnostics test than listening to a fixed recording.

And if you're reading this on a tablet in your bed at 3 a.m., please do yourself a favor and call it a night.

Read more at Scientific American

Photo credit: Cecilia Lim H M / Shutterstock

Related Articles

Scientists discover what caused the worst mass extinction ever

How a cataclysm worse than what killed the dinosaurs destroyed 90 percent of all life on Earth.

Credit: Ron Miller
Surprising Science

While the demise of the dinosaurs gets more attention as far as mass extinctions go, an even more disastrous event called "the Great Dying” or the “End-Permian Extinction” happened on Earth prior to that. Now scientists discovered how this cataclysm, which took place about 250 million years ago, managed to kill off more than 90 percent of all life on the planet.

Keep reading Show less

Why we're so self-critical of ourselves after meeting someone new

A new study discovers the “liking gap” — the difference between how we view others we’re meeting for the first time, and the way we think they’re seeing us.

New acquaintances probably like you more than you think. (Photo by Simone Joyner/Getty Images)
Surprising Science

We tend to be defensive socially. When we meet new people, we’re often concerned with how we’re coming off. Our anxiety causes us to be so concerned with the impression we’re creating that we fail to notice that the same is true of the other person as well. A new study led by Erica J. Boothby, published on September 5 in Psychological Science, reveals how people tend to like us more in first encounters than we’d ever suspect.

Keep reading Show less

NASA launches ICESat-2 into orbit to track ice changes in Antarctica and Greenland

Using advanced laser technology, scientists at NASA will track global changes in ice with greater accuracy.

Firing three pairs of laser beams 10,000 times per second, the ICESat-2 satellite will measure how long it takes for faint reflections to bounce back from ground and sea ice, allowing scientists to measure the thickness, elevation and extent of global ice
popular

Leaving from Vandenberg Air Force base in California this coming Saturday, at 8:46 a.m. ET, the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 — or, the "ICESat-2" — is perched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket, and when it assumes its orbit, it will study ice layers at Earth's poles, using its only payload, the Advance Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS).

Keep reading Show less