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Decreased Sleep Linked to Memory Difficulties

By HERWriter
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decreased sleep linked to difficulties with memory Benis Arapovic/PhotoSpin

If you think about it, memories are one of the most important parts of life. Memories help define who you are as a person, and differentiate you from the person next to you.

And having the mental capability to remember those memories is just as important. However, if you’re not getting enough sleep, your brain may distort those memories, turning them into false memories.

According to a new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the U.S. Association for Psychological Science, sleep deprivation can lead to an increased risk for developing false memories under certain conditions.

Medical Xpress explains that participants in the study were more likely to mess up the details of a burglary shown to them through a series of images after they were deprived of a night of sleep.

Sleep deprivation effects were worst on participants who got five or less hours of sleep.

Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, an internal medicine physician, said in an email that she has many patients who complain of these three problems:

1) Decreased alertness

2) Poor concentration

3) Changes in work performance

She said that before performing tests, she asks about their sleep habits. And most of those patients sleep less than six hours a night on average. When they are told to get to bed two hours earlier every night for two weeks, she said most patients report significant improvements.

“Our overextended schedules cause us to push ourselves to do more within our day, but our desire to get more done in those 24 hours cannot replace good health practices,” Dalton-Smith said. “The body must have adequate rest to function properly.”

“When your brain is pushed to the max, something has to give and that something is often your cognitive abilities, your ability to think clearly and process information,” she added. “Allowing time for adequate sleep in the long run will save you time because you will be mentally sharper and more alert.”

Robert Turner, a licensed professional counselor and member of the American Counseling Association, said in an email that there are at least six risk factors for developing memory problems in general:

1) Insomnia

Add a Comment1 Comments

Hi Rheyanne!

This is so interesting! I never knew that sleep problems and lack of sleep could impact your memory. On really busy days, sometimes I have a hard time going to bed at a reasonable hour and I notice that it definitely affects my ability to focus and work efficiently the next day.

If you do develop false memories from lack of sleep, do you know if those memories remain permanent? Or can getting on a good sleep schedule again help reverse them back?

Thanks! :)

- Erin

July 25, 2014 - 4:58pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.