Do you remember the last time you stayed awake all night? Most of my memories of this activity were during college, and not surprisingly, during my freshman year when I was not a very good keeper of my time. I excelled in procrastination and failed at planning.
My grades were good, and fortunately during that final physics lecture after I had successfully completed two all-nighters in a row I managed to take notes that regularly trailed off on the paper into a single line ending when my hand fell into my lap, waking me up.
Since that time I’ve learned that staying up all night hurts the body is oh so many ways. And there is not enough coffee in the world to bring the relief to the body that a good night’s sleep does.
Since those stellar days as a freshman in college, I’ve discovered that I am an insomniac. My father was one. My brothers and sisters share the trait. I don’t know about blessings or curses, but I do know that when I am able to sleep for six straight hours I consider myself to be very blessed.
I guess I wasn’t terribly surprised, then, to discover that there is a study that demonstrates that not only is staying up all night detrimental to our physical body, our mental health suffers too. We can damage our memory by this activity.
Sleep-deprived people can say they saw something happen that never happened. According to the article published in Psychological Science, sleep deprivation can cause us to think things happened when they actually didn’t. This gives rise to all kinds of ideas for horror movies and books. But the sad fact is that it is true.
In the study they divided a group of people into three. Group one slept four hours a night. Group 2 slept six hours a night. And Group 3 slept eight hours a night.
Obviously, the group who got a full eight hours of sleep suffered no cognitive problems. The group that slept six hours a night performed their tests as if they had a blood alcohol of 0.1 percent (drunk!) and the group that got only four hours of sleep a night fell asleep during the testing.
According to Steven Frenda from the University of California in Irvine, he was surprised to learn that few studies looked at the connection of sleep deprivation and memory distortion. He said, “Most studies only look at a sleep deprived person’s ability to remember lists of words, not real people, places and events.”
During Frenda’s test, they kept college students awake for 24 hours. Then they tested them to see if they were likely to mix up events. The test included a series of photos showing a crime taking place, that of a man stealing a wallet. One group of students went to bed after viewing the photos. The other group remained awake.
Phase two of the experiment had the groups review a written narrative of the event containing statements that did not support the photographs that were initially shown. As an example, a photo might show the man putting the wallet in his jacket pocket, while the narrative said the man put it in his pants pocket.
Students who were most sleep deprived reported more false details.
This is hardly a surprise. Sleep deprivation is responsible for automobile accidents, medical malpractice, industrial mishaps, as well as physical ailments. If you are even remotely sleep deprived, you might not want to be a key witness to a crime. You may misremember something vital.