Researchers have shown that our perception of reality is severely impacted by sleep deprivation.
The study, which examined whether lack of sleep could lead to false memories, was conducted at the University of California, Irvine. Scientists involved in the research say that sleep-deprived subjects who viewed photographs of a crime being committed and then read false information about the photos were more likely to report remembering the false details than were those who got a full night’s sleep.
Upon arriving to the lab in the late evening, the 104 college-age participants were presented with a series of photos depicting a crime being committed as soon as they arrived to the lab. One group was then allowed to go to sleep, while the other group had to stay awake all night in the lab.
In the second part of the experiment, the participants read narratives containing statements that contradicted what the photographs actually showed. For instance, a text description might say that the thief put a stolen wallet in his pants pocket, whereas the photo shows him putting it in his jacket.
The researchers found that those students who were sleep deprived were more likely to report the false details from the text narrative as having been present in the crime photos.
The scientists at UC-Irvine say further research is needed, but they say the findings may have important legal ramifications.