How many times have you argued with your partner due to having a completely different recollection of past events?
This is surprisingly common, and scientists have found that lack of sleep could be responsible.
A study conducted by Michigan State University, U.S. discovered that sleep deprivation may not only make people forgetful, but can implant ‘false’ memories in the brain of events that have never even taken place.
Leading university psychologist, Dr Kimberly Fenn, said: “We found memory distortion is greater after sleep deprivation. And people are getting less sleep each night than they ever have.
“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 is not just a full night of sleep deprivation that puts them at risk.”
Lack of sleep – less than seven to eight hours a night – is already regarded as a public health epidemic, but in light of new research there is concern that it could have severe repercussions in other areas of life.
The criminal justice system in particular could be greatly affected.
In the study – which is published in the journal, Psychological Science – participants who had been kept awake for 24 hours were asked to remember the details of a simulated burglary when shown a series of photographs.
The majority struggled to remember important details of the event, and even those who got five or fewer hours of sleep were likely to mix up what actually happened.
The concern is, if they were to be called as eyewitnesses in court, or used to help identify an offender, they could potentially give false evidence.
Lack of sleep is already linked to a number of problems, including hindered learning ability in young children and an increased risk of vehicle crashes and chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.
Currently in the UK, more than 28 million people (almost six in 10 of the population) are regularly failing to get more than seven hours of sleep a night.