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Lack of sleep contributes to false memories

If coffee improves memory, lack of sleep seems to erode it. UC Irvine researchers showed study participants a series of images depicting a burglary in progress and asked them to remember key details 24 hours later. Participants who’d had a good night’s sleep had better recall of the events, while those who had pulled all-nighters or slept for just a few hours were more likely to misremember and even invent details.

“Sometimes memory distortions are trivial and don’t matter, but there are contexts (e.g., eyewitnesses in court, clinicians making medical decisions) where errors have serious consequences, so we need to be concerned about factors that make memory less reliable, and more vulnerable to distortion,” said lead researcher Steven Frenda, who specializes in human memory at the department of Psychology and Social Behavior at UC Irvine.

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