Something Bizarre Happens to Your Brain When You Don't Get Enough Sleep

Something Bizarre Happens to Your Brain When You Don't Get Enough Sleep

The news: What did you do last night? Careful — if you didn’t get enough sleep, your brain could be lying to you.

Turns out sleep deprivation can do worse than give you memory loss. It can actually implant false memories in your brain. This discovery comes from a new study published this week in Psychological Science.

“We examined the relationship between self-reported sleep duration and false memories and the effect of 24 hr of total sleep deprivation on susceptibility to false memories,” the researchers wrote. “We found that under certain conditions, sleep deprivation can increase the risk of developing false memories.”

Note, though, that according to the study the effect doesn’t take place for actions completed before sleep deprivation. So you’ll probably remember the day before just fine — it’s what you did when you were staying up at night that would cause problems.

The background: The interplay of sleep and memory is still under plenty of scientific investigation. Even commonly held beliefs — like that REM sleep is necessary for memory retention — don’t always hold up to scrutiny.

Subjects in the study were kept awake for 24 hours, which is much longer than most folks stay up (college students notwithstanding). But we’re sleeping less and less thanks to busy schedules and numerous distractions.

While there’s no magic number for how much sleep you should get, the CDC recommends about seven to eight hours a day for adults.

More than memory: Lack of sleep has been linked to plenty of problems. Not getting enough shuteye can increase your risk of everything from heart disease and stroke to cancer and diabetes.


Image credit: Huffington Post

A Gallup survey found that 40% of Americans don’t get enough sleep, with the CDC going so far as to classify it as an "epidemic."

So take it from the experts — just turn of Netflix and go to bed. If you don’t, you’ll probably just misremember everything that happened in the show anyway.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Matt Connolly

Matt has written for Mother Jones, the Washington Examiner and Chicago Public Radio among many others. He's a resident of Washington, D.C., but much like Bruce Springsteen and pork roll he is a product of New Jersey.

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