Originally published July 28 2014
Not getting enough sleep can lead to false memories, schizophrenia and other health problems
by Julie Wilson
(NaturalNews) Scientists with the Department of Psychology and Social Behavior at the University of California, Irvine, ventured into unexplored waters when their research unveiled a link between sleep deprivation and false memories.
Led by Steven J. Frenda, the study found that sleeping five hours or less a night was linked to false memory formation, as reported by Medical News Today.
While past research has examined the relationship between lack of sleep and memory loss, this experiment, published in the journal Psychological Science, suggested that sleep deprivation could increase one's susceptibility to false memories.
"I was surprised to find that there were so few empirical studies connecting sleep deprivation with memory distortion in an eyewitness context," said Frenda.
"The studies that do exist look mostly at sleep-deprived people's ability to accurately remember lists of words - not real people, places and events."
Experiment asks over 100 college-age volunteers to review crime photos
The research team developed a test in which they could investigate how getting no sleep at all affects the formation of false memories by studying a group of 104 college-age participants.
The participants were divided into four groups. Two of the groups were shown photos of a crime taking place at a laboratory late at night. One of the groups was allowed to sleep, while the other stayed up all night.
The other two groups, one slept while the other stayed awake, reviewed the crime photos the morning after rather than the night before. The participants were then required to read narratives of eyewitness statements that gave different information than what the photos showed.
One example included an eyewitness stating that a thief put a stolen wallet in the pocket of his pants, when the photo showed that he placed it in his jacket.
The volunteers were then asked to recall what was shown in the photos.
Researchers found that the group who viewed the photos, read the narratives and attempted to recall the pictures after staying awake all night were more likely to say that the details in the eyewitness narratives were present in the photos, when in reality they weren't, an indication of false memory formation.
Contrastingly, the groups that were allowed to sleep remembered what they saw in the pictures and were far less likely to report false memories.
Getting enough sleep offers a better quality of life
Sleep is incredibly important and crucial to maintaining overall health. Adequate sleep allows your brain to prepare for the next day by sharpening your learning and problem-solving abilities.
A good night's rest also affects your physical health. Sleep helps your body heal and repair your heart and blood vessels, and maintain a healthy balance of hormones, in addition to supporting growth and development in children and teens.
Sleep deprivation can quickly lead to a host of health complications including increased stress levels, weight gain and more serious illnesses like schizophrenia.
Researchers previously believed that disrupted sleep was a symptom of schizophrenia, but experts are now suggesting that these disturbances could actually trigger the fatal hallucinogenic disease.
The findings, published in the journal Neuron, examined the association between poor sleep and schizophrenia by measuring electrical activity in the brain during sleep.
Led by researchers from the University of Bristol, the study's authors believe that prolonged sleep deprivation increases the occurrence of schizophrenia symptoms such as hallucinations, confusion and memory loss.
"Decoupling of brain regions involved in memory formation and decision-making during wakefulness are already implicated in schizophrenia, but decoupling during sleep provides a new mechanistic explanation for the cognitive deficits observed in both the animal model and patients: sleep disturbances might be a cause, not just a consequence of schizophrenia," noted Dr. Matt Jones, the study's lead author.
Experts admit that more research is needed; however, the information sheds light on new techniques for neurocognitive therapy in schizophrenia and other related psychiatric diseases.
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